As it Happens in the Twittersphere…

As it happens, and it’s been happening a lot this week, Twitter seems to be the best place to keep up with the news these days. As I write there is a city wide manhunt occurring in Boston as police attempt to apprehend a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings that occurred earlier this week, on Monday the 15th of April.

Amazing coverage of this event has been on-going all night. Relevant hashtags have been changing as events occurred and simply by clicking on the most relevant hashtag any twitter user has been privy to the most up to date information available. When I first logged into Twitter #MIT was trending, this corresponding to the shooting death of a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The suspects are then believed to have hi-jacked a car and fled to Watertown where a shoot out with police occurred.

#Watertown was then trending and second by second updates were flooding in. Pictures from locals of police cars outside their homes, video footage captured of gunfire exchange between police and the suspects. Photos flooded in of locals with bullet holes in their walls and bullets on their floors. People were posting that TV news was at least 30 minutes behind the Twitter updates, a truly remarkable thing to witness! One suspect was confirmed dead and the other had fled and was on the run. The name Sunil Tripathi began to trend, the name belonging to a Brown University student who has been missing for the past month. Sunil Tripathi was falsely named as a suspect and his name began to trend like crazy until eventually it was confirmed that he was NOT a suspect, despite earlier reports allegedly from a police scanner. As much as news coming into the Twittersphere at a staggeringly fact pace is a valuable source of information, this example of false accusation may be one illustration of a danger of social media. Sunil Tripathi’s family are allegedly (and VERY understandably) unimpressed about his false accusation.

The next update in events came as the entire city of Boston was put on lockdown. #Boston began to trend as everyone in the city was told to stay inside, lock their doors and answer only to uniformed and properly identified police officers.

Chechnya’ and ‘Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’ are still trending as I write. ‘Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’ allegedly being the name of the suspect police are currently trying to apprehend, and ‘Chechnya’ referring to the republic in Russia which is allegedly where the suspects (who have been confirmed as brothers) are from.

As I have been writing a new trend has popped up, ‘Honda CRV’ and no, it’s not a thread for car fans! According to reports on Twitter the remaining suspect may be driving one of these cars in his attempted escape. Amazingly even the license plate number of the car that the suspect was purportedly driving has been tweeted, an amazing way to warn fellow citizens to stay away from said car if they see it and alert police officers to its whereabouts. The reporting of the car license plate reminded me somewhat of a modern day ‘Amber Alert’. An ‘Amber Alert’ is an alert system used to try and help find abducted children. An alert will be sent out via radio, TV, email, text, any means possible, to alert the public that a child is missing and to give a description of the suspect and the child. The use of Twitter to get the description of the car and its license plate number out to the public really reminded me of this system. The tweets will work not only to find the suspect, but to warn other citizens of potential danger as well.

Following these events as they occur through twitter has been truly remarkable. I saw a lady tweet that journalism was changing tonight as these events unfolded, the Twittersphere has opened up immense opportunities for ‘real time’ reporting.

We can only wait to see what happens next, but whatever it is my guess is Twitter will be the first to know!

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