Social Networking Blog

Guy Clapperton on the evolving new media

Twitter as a news feed

There’s been a lot of talk about how the traditional media is changing. Newspapers are in decline, we hear, and the online media are taking over. This is true to a point. Actually it’s true to more than a point, and I find it quite worrying.

A fuller analysis than mine is here on Chris Norton’s excellent blog. It makes the point that the traditional news sources – well, one of them, in this case Sky, are paying a lot of attention to the newer guys and indeed monitoring the likes of Twitter very carefully. It was Twitter, the post points out, that reported on the Mumbai bombings.

Well, yes it was. And this is where my concerns start to creep in. One of the things that happened in the Mumbai incident was that people started Tweeting things like the locations of the soldiers, where they were going, where they were gathering ready for an attack. And the authorities had to ask people to stop – not because of inaccuracy, not because of libels but because if you’re involved in some sort of counter-terrorism you don’t really want the other bloke able to find out exactly where you are from a Twitter feed.

Social media is far from new in this, of course. Years before we had so much as a Compuserve account in this or any other country, the Royal Navy were criticising our press for divulging numbers of troops going to fight in the Falklands War – whatever your view on the conflict you can understand the forces not really wanting to hand such valuable intelligence to the enemy.

But this could become endemic if social media really does take over as a guiding force for news reportage. It’s not the quality or the accuracy or the fact that loads of correspondents can’t write or punctuate for toffee – they’ll get their point over, and probably without resorting to cliches like ‘for toffee’. It’s the untrained element, the scattergun facts with no common-sense or professionalism filter that I really believe is going to cause a problem.


March 19, 2009 - Posted by | social media trends | , , , , ,


  1. A fair analysis. Safety and operations of counter terrorism could be used as arguments for communication or internet blackouts. An excuse that could in turn violate freedom of speech and press as an adverse effect.

    Comment by Blair Metcalfe | March 19, 2009

  2. Nice post Guy, I think we can all understand the forces wanting to keep the location of our troops quiet. Social media can be incredibly useful for reporting things or finding people in danger but as helpful as it is, it can also be quite dangerous too. I think everyone has to think before they Tweet or blog about something – just in case they are inadvertently reporting something which could endanger somebody else.

    Comment by Chris Norton | March 24, 2009

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