Twitter comes of age with fast reports from the ground
From the moment the first shots were fired, the internet provided a kaleidoscopic view of events in Mumbai. Using blogs and file-sharing sites, those caught up in the mayhem rapidly provided accounts from the ground as well as links to the best news reports appearing on the web.
One rich source of information was Twitter, which provides SMS-message-length updates. Its Mumbai thread provided a stream of snippets, not all accurate, from observers on the ground, with details of casualties, sieges, gunfights, and even the suspected names of terrorists.
In many cases, Twitter updated developments faster than many TV networks or newspaper websites. The site’s contributors also questioned the veracity of some news reports, pointing out contradictions and errors. When Indian reporters announced that the siege at the Taj hotel was over, for example, Twitter contended that gunfights were continuing. “Locals say gunfire still happening at TAJ,” said one feed, hours after fighting was said to have finished. “Twitter comes of age—Mumbai coverage way ahead of traditional media,” added another contributor.
However the site also contained misleading threads, some of it purporting to be from intelligence services and much of it unsourced. There were also unconfirmed reports—on Twitter and elsewhere—that the Indian authorities had asked the site to cease its Mumbai feed, fearing terrorists could be making use of the information.
Bloggers provided a “public service” function, creating sites that divert users to Foreign Office advice, police reports, helpline numbers, and Google documents containing lists of the injured and killed.
Newspaper and magazine readers had to wait for much of the gripping writing from the scene, but the blogosphere was filled with accounts from the outset.
“We stepped out again, and as we did so, we heard gunshots, and saw people running towards us ... One of the hotel employees ... told us to get back in. ‘There must have been an encounter,’ he said. ‘Get back in, you’ll be safe inside’,” wrote India Uncut‘s Amit Varma. “Suddenly, what is familiar seems macabre.”
Vinukumar Ranganathan was one of the first to upload photos to the picture-sharing website Flickr.
His and others’ blurred images from the bloodied streets of Colaba instantly conveyed the gravity of the attacks. As soon as it emerged that the head of the antiterrorist squad, Hemant Karkare, had been killed, Flickr instantly contained a portfolio of images of the official.
By Thursday night Wikipedia contained more than 4 000 words of detailed—and corrected—information on the attacks. After Indian television quoted intelligence sources saying the attackers came by sea from the ship MV Alpha, Wikipedia dismissed the report, noting later reports that the Indian navy had searched the ship and found no evidence it was involved. - guardian.co.uk