Social media "cuts both ways," noted Greg Sterling, an analyst at Opus Research. "It allows you to get the information out more quickly, but it can also fan hysteria."
The Boston Police Department's Twitter log showed the positive side of social media. It was updated minute by minute in the aftermath of the bombings, often with instructions to avoid certain areas, or with information about where police officers might be stationed. It was also a source of information on Friday as police warned residents in Boston and surrounding communities to stay indoors as the suspects were sought.
Other social media sites were also useful sources of information. For instance, Google set up a Person Finder, as it did after the Japan earthquake two years ago, to help people connect with friends and loved ones after the incident.
Miners is a reporter for the IDG News Service. Sharon Gaudin contributed to this story.
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from articles that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com: " Update: Massive Citizen Smartphone Photo and Video Probe Underway Into Boston Bombings" and " Boston Blasts Show Two Sides of Social Media."
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