After reading about Twitter’s role in the recent uprisings in the Arab world and the London Riots, I saw firsthand last night how much of an impact Twitter can have on events, especially while they are still occurring.
I was having trouble falling asleep was sitting up in bed using my iPad at about 3 am last night when I saw all over Twitter that the NYPD had closed off lower Manhattan and were in riot gear and ready to move the Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park. Apparently the story had been all over Twitter for over an hour and a half. I immediately switched to the Optimum TV app on my iPad and checked news channels for footage or pictures. Nothing. I then flew through my CNN, Fox News, and AP News apps. Nothing again. I even checked the Daily News and NY1 websites and didn’t see anything. I then went back to Twitter and saw the tweets coming in rapidly, sharing pictures and video of what was happening, maybe from just a minute or two earlier. And Keith Olbermann, whom I consider a legitimate newsman even though he’s now on a TV channel I think I don’t even get, tweeting and retweeting about how the media has been kept away from this confrontation, and even the media helicopters were told they couldn’t fly overhead. In my opinion, whether you agree with Occupy Wall Street or not, it is really a scary move for police to show up to a peaceful (albeit dirty) protest at 1 am in riot gear and to not let the media document what was happening. But thanks to Twitter, I could see what was going on, a record of something that had the potential to turn dangerous was made, and I have no doubt it helped the protesters stay organized too.
Depending on where one stands on an issue, the instantaneous exchange of information on social media, especially Twitter, can be a good thing or a bad thing. But it has without question changed the way we send and receive information.
Here’re some articles recounting what happened on Twitter last night:
Mashable: Occupy Wall Street Gets the Boot, As Twitter Watches and Reacts
WSJ: Twitter Reacts to Bloomberg Clearing Occupy Wall Street From Zuccotti Park
Gizmodo: Here’s What Last Night’s Occupy Wall Street Raid Looked Like Through Cellphones