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Twitter Considered Harmful To Swine-Flu Panic 383

Posted by kdawson
from the you-have-the-flu-swine dept.
judgecorp writes "Twitter is being criticized for spreading panic about swine flu. This is not just knee-jerk Luddism 2.0: it's argued that Twitter's structure encourages ill-informed repetition, with little room for context, while older Web media use their power for good — for instance Google's Flu Trends page (which we discussed last winter), and the introduction of a Google swine flu map." On a related note, reader NewtonsLaw suggests that it might be a good idea, epidemiologically speaking, to catch the flu now vs. later.
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Twitter Considered Harmful To Swine-Flu Panic

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  • by DavidChristopher (633902) * on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:39AM (#27742165)
    http://xkcd.com/574/ [xkcd.com]

    I'm not sure if that's funny, ironic, satiristic, scary or just reality, but, you've GOT to wonder...
    • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte AT drunksnipers DOT com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:52AM (#27742257) Homepage

      Nah, Randall Munroe is simply this century's Nostradamus.

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:39AM (#27742787) Journal

        Well, it's not a hard prediction. I mean, whole threads of uninformed and stupid people spewing stupidities... on the internet? Who would have guessed? ;) In related news, bears do poop in the woods, the pope is indeed a catholic, and the ocean is indeed wet.

        On the other hand, to be fair, the internet only made it easy to run into such conversations which otherwise would have happened at the pub or at a street corner, with equally uninformed people nodding through and offering their own stupid advice. Just think of all the cabbies who can't manage their own finances, but are ready to discourse at length about how the government should fix the economy. Or of all the people who can't be diplomatic enough to their neighbour, but apparently know exactly what the president should tell France or Russia. Etc.

        And occasionally whole "theories" have been formed out of such stupid-preaching-to-the-stupid situations.

        E.g., historically "animal magnetism" was born out of weaker correlations than the "lick an autistic kid" in the comic. And some people still buy magnets and crystals as cures... although they were known to be scams at least as early as 1841 when Charles Mackay published his "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds."

        E.g., homeopathy was born out of the observation that, basically, small doses of quinine cure malaria, but high doses of quinine cause the same kind of shivers as malaria. In the meantime we know why both happen, and it has nothing to do with "like cures like". But some people _still_ insist on believing in a cure that's intellectually on par with "lick an autistic kid" and born out of a correlation that was every bit as stupid and superficial. (In fact, just watch, I'm going to rub my crystal ball and predict that someone will promptly post a reply as to how wrong I am, and how homeopathy works and is proven and cures everything from hypochondria to cancer;)

        • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:03AM (#27742891)

          The difference is that we get a new sort of belief chain.

          In the pub your degrees of freedom is 1 maybe 2, but on the Internet it truly becomes 6...

          So while in a pub you will have people spewing theories, it will stay in the pub. Whereas on the Internet, a friend copies a friend, copies a friend and at the end we have the entire world believing things will come to an end.

          In this stock market the reason why it was such a harsh drop was not because times were crap. But there was one thing new...

          BLOGS... We have this huge echo chamber of how bad things are FROM third hand people.

          If you were to say, "ok so how bad are times for you?" Most would say, "oh not so bad, but its really bad for some other folks."

          Well do that enough you start wondering who these "other" folks are...

          BTW I did buy heavily in this stock market drop! And I am actually positive for my ENTIRE portfolio for the year!

        • by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:28AM (#27746185)

          (In fact, just watch, I'm going to rub my crystal ball and predict that someone will promptly post a reply as to how wrong I am, and how homeopathy works and is proven and cures everything from hypochondria to cancer;)

          Homeopathy might well be the correct first-aid response to hypochondria: someone thinks they're sick but aren't, so give them a make-believe medicine.

          And be careful with the crystal ball, it it gathers enough static electricity it might turn into ball lighting.

    • by teko_teko (653164) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:56AM (#27742285) Homepage

      The xkcd forum users actually registered and recreated those tweets on the comic: listing [echochamber.me].

    • by TheMightyFuzzball (1500683) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:23AM (#27742421)
      XKCD Considered Harmful To Swine-Flu Panic
    • by drben (51740) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:41AM (#27742793) Homepage
      You cannot get swine flu from eating pork.

      However, you can get revenge that way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by skroops (1237422)
      I've determined that the most slashdot articles are complicated set-ups for xkcd links
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        And when XKCD references the Slashdot posts whose comments include those links, the circle of life is at last complete.
  • Autism (Score:5, Funny)

    by MortenMW (968289) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:41AM (#27742175)
    Just lick a kid with autism and you will be safe!
  • Difficult (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:42AM (#27742193)
    People using twitter, or people blaming twitter. What's the word I'm looking for?
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:43AM (#27742207)

    might be a good idea, epidemiologically speaking, to catch the flu now vs. later.

    That's silly: why would the solution to eradicating a disease be catching it when it's already out there?

    A better solution would be to treat the causes of the disease in the first place. In this case, H1N1 is a variant of the Spanish flu. Spain, Mexico? see a pattern? Of course, the solution is to ban Spanish and classical guitar worldwide.

    • by Frogbert (589961)

      Nonsense, check out the google map. The flu hasn't made it to Madagascar and I doubt it will due to the lack of airports in the country.

      I suggest you get on the next boat to Madagascar post haste before the port is closed.

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        Nonsense, check out the google map. The flu hasn't made it to Madagascar and I doubt it will due to the lack of airports in the country.

        Right. But then what of people coming by train ? huh ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        There are over 50 airports in Madagascar, recognised by the ICAO and IATA, including three paved over 7000ft long which would be fine for landing large civil aircraft.
    • Re:A better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:05AM (#27742331)

      That's silly: why would the solution to eradicating a disease be catching it when it's already out there?

      I reached the same conclusion (that catching now would be better than later) but for different reasons. Assuming you are going to catch it at some point, if you caught it right now then you'd be one of a very small number of infected people, and you'd receive a lot of attention and a lot of care. If it spreads and pretty much everyone gets it, then good luck getting any sort of access to health care (if you actually need it - most people have gotten better without special care)

      I think one of the biggest challenges we'll face in a pandemic is educating people to stay away from hospitals unless they are really really sick. Based on what i've seen in the past, everyone will be marching up to the hospital at the first sign of the sniffles... you're more likely to get beaten to death by an irate parent trying to get their child seen to than to actually get help :)

      • Re:A better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by registrar (1220876) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:02AM (#27742605)

        The reason the idea is dumb is that as time passes, diseases tend to evolve to become more infectious, but less pathogenic. It's an obvious bit of natural selection: you will avoid people you know to be sick, and hence you are more likely to be infected by a less ill person.

        The classic example is from Samoa in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Then, 25% of the population of Western Samoa died of flu. The American Navy maintained quarantine around American Samoa, and the flu didn't get there for about a year. Only a small fraction of the (nearly identical) population died.

        So if there's a nasty flu about, get it late.

        • Re:A better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:12AM (#27742915) Homepage

          Could that be because the navy was there to provide medical facilities and treatment to the people on American Samoa?

        • Re:A better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

          by zacronos (937891) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:44AM (#27743797)

          The reason the idea is dumb is that as time passes, diseases tend to evolve to become more infectious, but less pathogenic. It's an obvious bit of natural selection: you will avoid people you know to be sick, and hence you are more likely to be infected by a less ill person.

          Interesting -- I had the same fact in my head (diseases tend to become less debilitating/fatal as time goes on) but with a different bit of (equally "obvious"?) natural selection as the explanation: a disease which keeps its host alive and even healthy will be more successful at spreading than one which incapacitates and/or kills its host during the period when the host is infectious. While it is true that dead bodies can be a vector for the spread of disease, a living host can potentially spread the disease for much longer.

          In fact, to anthropomorphize the disease a little, the goal it should strive for is not to cause any negative reactions in the host (which implicitly means it can't be triggering the immune system to attack it), and so to benignly infect every human on the planet from now until doomsday. For real overachieving diseases, they should strive to form a symbiotic relationship with the host so that there is selective pressure against being "immune" to the disease, as well as against lifestyle choices that are detrimental to the disease's population in the host. (Of course, when it no longer causes any negative effects in the host, we usually don't call it a disease anymore.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Canazza (1428553)

        and also, if healthy people start congregating around hospitals they're more likely to catch the thing - you know, cause hospitals are the places where all the sick people are

      • you're more likely to get beaten to death by an irate parent

        I read that as "irate pirate". Aaaaarrrrrr.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nobody expects the Spanish flu!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by daveime (1253762)

      I'd have thought catching ANY disease early would be a good thing for all of the following reasons :-

      1 - You are likely to receive more (medical) attention early on before the finance departments start making "risk assessments" and other evaluations to decide IF a certain person should even receive vaccines / treatment.

      2 - You get a chance to build up an early resistance to it, so even if it mutates, you won't be hit as hard, if at all, the 2nd time around.

      3 - You also get a chance for the antibiotics etc t

  • This just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:44AM (#27742215)

    Giving people a voice spreads panic. Film at 11.

    People want to be heard. And they learned from the news that bad news get the most attention. So what do you do when you want the most attention? You spread bad news. You invent them where necessary, because everyone else does it too and you gotta outdo them.

    We, in the free world, didn't learn the lesson that people with tightly controlled media learned a long time ago: Just because you may say the truth doesn't mean that you have to. We grew up with free press and the idea that you can tell it the way it is. The fallacy was to assume people would do just that.

    Maybe this, along with other similar "problems", will teach us that, surprise, surprise, people lie to you when they think they gain an advantage out of it. Just don't believe everything you hear.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      We, in the free world, didn't learn the lesson that people with tightly controlled media learned a long time ago [...] We grew up with free press and the idea that you can tell it the way it is.

      How quaint. You have free press? Please let me know where your free world is, I'm moving today.

      Seriously though, the press in "the free world" - which is for you, I'm assuming, roughly whatever rich country that didn't fall under Soviet influence at the end of WW2 - isn't free or impartial by a long shot, because mos

      • Re:This just in (Score:5, Informative)

        by TFer_Atvar (857303) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:54AM (#27742563) Homepage
        Bull. I work at the second-largest newspaper in Alaska and pick wire stories based on what people are interested in and what folks need to stay informed. Regardless of what you might think, I'm not a part of a conspiracy or the Illuminati.
        • by chromas (1085949) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:08AM (#27742641)

          I'm not a part of a conspiracy or the Illuminati

          That's just what you want me to believe. Anyway, what's a newspaper?

        • Re:This just in (Score:5, Insightful)

          by VJ42 (860241) * on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:20AM (#27742699)

          [we]pick wire stories based on what people are interested in and what folks need to stay informed.

          The first part of that sentence is certainly true, whilst I can't speak for your newspaper the second part doesn't necessarily follow. People tend to be interested in the latest celebrity gossip, so papers print celebrity gossip because it sells newspapers. I don't call that keeping people informed (note: I'm from the UK that's how it works here if the USA is different then I apologise).

        • Re:This just in (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:28AM (#27742733)

          I am certain you do your best to be a good, honest journalist. However, I'm also quite sure that, if it hasn't happened already, you will find it difficult to run a story on things like, say, Palin or Exxon unabridged, if at all, depending on your newspaper's political leanings and those of its owner(s). You can't possibly tell me your stories haven't ever been edited, and/or you haven't been told to "soften up" on this or that by your editor, right?

          As for supposed illuminati, free mason or jewish stranglehold on world affairs, I don't believe in any of that crap, but that doesn't mean one can't be realistic about the partiality of the media.

        • by BruceCage (882117)

          It doesn't really have anything to do with a conspiracy. I know some people will immediately go in a frenzy for me even recommending this but if you haven't consider reading some of Chomsky's political stuff such as Manufacturing Consent [wikipedia.org] or Media Control. Then to balance everything out take a look at the criticism section [wikipedia.org] from Wikipedia's article on Chomsky. But most important of all, stay critical and form your own opinion.

        • Re:This just in (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:57AM (#27743183)

          You needn't lie to cause a panic. You needn't invent things to turn a harmless information into a horrible (and potentially dangerous) hype.

          Assume this comes over the ticker (I'm inventing numbers here, it's an example, ok?): "Ten cases of swine flu in Texas. After about 80 reports in Mexico last week with 2 fatal cases, the swine flu has now reached the USA. Also, two cases have been reported in Europe, namely in Spain and Scotland. Doctors consider the thread as "potentially serious", generally though they estimate to have enough serum at hand to avoid a pandemic".

          Newspaper article: "Swine flu crosses pond! After sweeping through Mexico with almost 100 infected, some of them seriously sick or already dead and spreading through the south of the USA through the weekend, reports have been confirmed that the deadly Swine Flu has now crossed over to Europe. Cases have been reported in Spain and Scotland. According to experts, the disease and its spread can only be described as "serious", whether there is enough serum to keep a pandemic from sweeping through Europe and maybe even Asia is anything but certain"

          Same information, ain't it? It's all in the delivery...

      • by Angostura (703910)

        It is left as an exercise for the reader to identify the corporate interests of the owners of the BBC and the Scott Trust which owns The Observer and The Guardian in the UK.

      • Re:This just in (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:49AM (#27743115)

        You, too, are under the impression that "free press" equals "telling the truth". This is, by its very definition, not the case.

        Free press means only that the state or government does not dictate what you have to write. In our country, there is something called "press aid", a grant that for some odd reason only newspapers that don't criticise the government too much are entitled to (there are "official" qualification criteria like "being important for the general information"... go figure), but you may still write whatever you please (and do without the grant).

        Free press does NOT mean that the press is forced to print only the unbiased, undiluted truth, without a speck of commentary or opinion. Most people are under the impression that this must be the case. Because, so their train of thought, if nobody dictates that they have to write something, they can do their "job" and deliver true blue information.

        The difference between a dictatorship and a democracy? In both, both government and the press lies to you. The difference is that in a democracy, they tell different lies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chapter80 (926879)

        ...the press in "the free world"...isn't free or impartial by a long shot, because most media outfits are owned by corporations.

        Um, but you are free to start your own press, and say whatever you want.

        Of course, you may want to incorporate for your protection. It seems that you feel the act of incorporation adds evilness and bias to your reporting. But bias is there prior to incorporation.

        My opinion is that your "Score:5 Insightful" post is a load of crap, and that's the beauty of a free society. I c

  • Sensationalism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tiger4 (840741) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:47AM (#27742227)

    Reminds me of my local Fox News station that carried an official statement from the government about how people shouldn't panic. Then immediately followed it with a report of the number of cases around the country, then an interview with one of the victims saying how awful it was to vomit for hours on end. And then all the places and all the ways you can catch the flu, and what you should do if you do.

    Fair and balanced once again.

  • Mob Mentality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlingojones (919531) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:50AM (#27742241) Homepage
    This isn't all that rare on Twitter. #amazonfail is a good example [shirky.com] of the Twitter jumping to conclusions and blowing something way out of proportion.
    • Re:Mob Mentality (Score:4, Informative)

      by bbtom (581232) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @06:25AM (#27743653) Homepage Journal

      I'm not sure what the problem is with the #amazonfail thing. People make mistakes. It wasn't a lynch mob. It was a bunch of people discussing something on Twitter with a hashtag. Big fucking deal. Go on to Twitter Search and type in the name of a game or a programming language. Are all those people part of an angry mob?

      I remember the amazonfail. Most of the posts were pretty sceptical. They were like: this is a bit weird - Amazon have deranked all the gay-themed books. If this is legit and not a hack, Amazon aren't getting any more business. (Note the conditional word "if".) There was also some discussion about how much of our lives are stored on Amazon servers - pointing out that if #amazonfail turned out to be true, it might actually be quite a bit of work to untangle all the Amazon Web Services stuff (S3, EC2 etc.). Thankfully, it turned out to have a perfectly reasonable explanation. I think the level of belief on Twitter was pretty proportional to the evidence.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:54AM (#27742275) Homepage

    Does anyone recall the "racial caution" given to asian people (and by asian, I mean oriental, not the rest of asia that is usually ignored when people say asia) when SARS was the big worry?

    Now it will be avoiding anyone of hispanic decent and of course anyone would just couldn't keep away from "spring break fever?"

    In any case, looking at the google tracking information so far, it's pretty darned slight. Given that there are plenty of people who have already recovered from it, I would have to estimate that this is still little more than an ordinary flu.

    People die more often of other diseases that are more easily treatable than this. I think the usual fatalities will apply -- the extremely young and extremely old. A vaccine will be put out before too long but I think with all the quarantine activity going on, it is already pretty well contained. (There may be times when the directed focus of the people is useful... now if we can just direct the focus of the people on civil liberties and the governments gone wild problems something might be accomplished.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      Let's be honest here. Swine-Flu originated from Mexico whome most are of hispanic decent. Naturally, they will mingle closely with their family members who are (drum roll please)...hispanic! Hell, Just look at Southern California and San Antonio on Google Maps flu tracking.

      From a pure statistical standpoint, your chances of catching this flu increase the more often you hang close to people of Hispanic decent. But should this thing catch on like wild fire, it will be a moot point in six months. By then, it w

    • It's not just the very young and very old dying. That's part of the worry. It's early days, and what we know changes by the day at the moment. What we do know is:

      - there is evidence of person to person spread (unlike bird flu, which seemed to be just animal-person)
      - the people dying are over-represented in the 20-40 age group (unlike most flu)
      - mortality so far has been around 7-8% (probably lower as a lot of cases probably never present for medical care and so are not included in the survival statistics
      - the viral genetics are a mix of 4: human flu, swine flu, avian flu, and human/swine flu (apparently a separate one)

      This might be bad news
      Information source for anyone interested: I am an emergency doctor, we had a presentation this morning from a public health specialist and an infectious diseases specialist detailing the regional response plan for swine flu, so it's about as up to date as is available.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ukyoCE (106879)

        The lack of deaths in the US is promising. The flu is being reported as much milder outside Mexico. Not to jump the gun too much, but it's possible the deadliest strain of the flu killed itself off by being too severe. Leaving a much weaker (but higher fitness from an evolutionary perspective) version to make its way around the world.

  • Quick! Before it's too late! Remove them from the language spec, along with GOTO!

  • by trawg (308495) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:17AM (#27742395) Homepage

    News at 11

    The rapid dissemination of information that twitter provides can be a good thing (or at least so I read on Bad Astronomer [discovermagazine.com], I still haven't been to twitter after the first time I went there to see what it was), but seriously, the same rules apply as with anything you read on the Internet.

    If you're a twitter user and you feel the need to let people know about things, at least link them to a reputable information source. No, an obvious conspiracy site saying this is a terrorist attack is not an information source.

    • It isn't just that (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:40AM (#27742501)

      The Internet adds two thing on to of just giving voice to people who are uninformed:

      1) Giving voice to the crazies. There are lots of crazy people in the world. Many of these crazy people like to predict doom at every turn. While there are some historical examples of the doomsday prophets that got a widespread voice, most were just ignored. Now the Internet lets them publish to a world wide audience, and to find other crazies like them to reinforce their views. It isn't just that they are uninformed, it is that they actually want the doomsday scenario to be true.

      2) Anonymity. Part of the problem of calling out doom in the real world is that if you end up being completely and totally wrong, people may decide to ignore you, ridicule you, maybe even pop you in the mouth. You become the crazy guy that nobody will invite over and so on. Well not on the net, there's basically no consequences for your actions. In another forum I saw someone who has said that for sure, this is The Big One(tm). (S)he threw out a whole bunch of "This is what's gonna happen," statements, with no backing. However when (s)he's wrong, as is almost certainly the case, there'll be no repercussions. (S)he can pull the same shit during the next big thing.

      So the next just creates this perfect storm for doomsday hysteria: The information is spread instantly, there's no credentials check so there's lots of uninformed people, the crazies can talk all they like, and nobody is held accountable. Thus it becomes real easy for "A man in Brazil is coughing," to be blown up in to "All of Brazil is infected and now has a zombie apocalypse," in a matter of hours.

      My advice to everyone is same as always: Trust the experts, in this case the CDC and WHO. Wash your hand often (this is a good idea no matter what) and make sure you've got some soup and acetaminophen on hand since if you get sick, you aren't likely to die, but you probably won't feel like shopping and will likely want those two things.

      • by dzfoo (772245)

        There's a problem with your thesis: Wouldn't those two reasons be precisely why such people should be ignored? I mean, if the Internet has a low barrier to entry for the "crazies", and most of them speak their blather anonymously, you would imagine that the rational person would not put much credence in their pronouncements.

        The fact that this isn't the case means that the problem may not lie in the medium, but on the gullible and uninformed masses, reacting to everything they read.

  • by Critical_ (25211)

    Am I the only one that finds is somewhat amusing to see a blog post criticizing the new social media star Twitter of misinforming people?

    On another note, blogger Kragen Javier Sitaker, @kragen [twitter.com] has written an interesting entry on How False Rumors Can Cost Lives in light of the #swineflu crisis on Twitter by discussing the aftermath of Tuskegee on the African American community. Although I agree with many items on his personal responsibilities list, it seems almost impossible to stop inane comments from takin

  • Twitting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nomad-9 (1423689)
    "Twitter's structure encourages ill-informed repetition, with little room for context.."

    ... You mean, just like mass media? What a surprise.

  • Spreading panic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by willoughby (1367773) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:37AM (#27742483)
    Panic, unlike influenza, can be "spread" only to those who willingly accept it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by petes_PoV (912422)
      But even if you don't accept it yourself, you can still be affected by it. If those in power either beleive all the rubbish spoken, or merely yield to public pressure (i.e. mob rule), your life can be severely disrupted. All it takes is for some bureaucrat somewhere to decide to close down the transit system and you can't get to work. Of if "they" decide to shut the schools, you have to take time off to look after your children.
    • Panic, unlike influenza, can be "spread" only to those who willingly accept it.

      I wonder if that's an attempt at originality or you've stumbled across a book of quotations from 19th century philosophers.

      Either way, I'd suggest that next time you're sitting with friends or coworkers, offer up a convincing display of emotion (laughter is good, but a yawn would suffice) and see how many people don't join in. The trick, however, is recognising that those manifesting the lack of will you're alluding to will, whe

  • by stimpleton (732392) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:39AM (#27742499)
    I have just finished watching the evening news here in New Zealand(its 7:00pm Tuesday night) and they have been interviewing a family through a window of their quarantined house. To add to the picture, additional cameramen out on the road, hamming it up and fearful to go any closer. The main network channel is bringing test results "live at 9pm".

    It is theatre at its best. It makes "alarmist" twitter look boring.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Despite the fact that I agree that the media in general is doing it's fair share of fearmongering..

      I don't blame the cameramen in this case. The only thing they know are:
      There is a new type of flu, a fair number of people *have* died from it. Full details of severity in general are not known yet. So yeah.. i'd be very carefull to if I had to talk to one of the suspected victims. Caution is a virtue.

  • I hate twitter. Please can someone make a new Internets keep the porn and just not allow social networking sites. Also ban the use of the phrase 'web 2.0' or web *.* of any sort.
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Can we also keep the LOLCATZ? I'm rather fond of that.

      I mean, separated from the pr0n. Well, most of it at least; to each his own, I say.

              -dZ.

  • So far all the news broadcasts have been exactly that. "There's an outbreak of a new flu, it's in Mexico, some people there have died, lots of people have said things about it."

    That pretty much sums up every news item (and it's been the headline story, too) for a couple of days. Either the BBC news thinks that anything more technical would be too difficult for their journalists to explain, or that it would be "elitist" by excluding stupid people from understanding it. I'll know that they've descended to t

  • Is it really a bad thing if Twitter addicts wind up charging off a cliff in an ecstasy of pointless panic? This is Social Darwinism at its best. Everybody wins.

  • Have anyone caught any of the continuing coverage on all the major network today?? You don't think people will panic after watching those??
  • claiming that the (snail) mail is responsible for mail bombs. Twitter is just the media, it's still the people that cause a hype or a panic.

    A media can make it easier for a panic to spread but would you charge the manufacturer of a knife if someone uses it to kill a person instead of preparing a filet?

  • Harmful? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zmollusc (763634) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:45AM (#27743095)

    Far from being harmful to the panic, I would say that twitter is helping the panic considerably.

  • Governments ALWAYS have only reacted when forced to do so by people: to any crisis.
    Whether its Katrina or SARS or insurgency in Iraq, the Government does NOT ever take proactive action until its too late or very late.
    Twitter helps to give a swift kick in the Government's A$s to get it going quickly.
    Unfortunately, the Government hates Twitter for its visibility. After all billions of tax payers dollars are shovelled out to FEMA and CDC for hogging the limelight.
    Now, a small kid like Twitter which the governm

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @09:41AM (#27745521)
    Swine flu fears spread via Twitter! http://example.com/ [example.com] ZOMG
    RT: @obojbaljsb @ljsndljsd @ksahbksjbdv Swine flu spread via Twitter! http://example.com/ [example.com]
    RT: @hbs9yho3u @9jbkjsrg @jkbs8h3g @kbhjs89 @kjbiugs3e Swine flu spreads via Twitter!
    Swine flu killed my friend via Twitter!
    Fail Whale.
  • Have you seen the first of Sprint's current snarky commercials about its 3G network, in which it visually depicts the Twitter network as a mob of little blue birds all chirping "me!"...?

    I'd say that pretty much nails the whole narcissistic utility of Twitter.

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