Social Networks Impact on the Boston Marathon Explosions

Tragedy struck at the Boston Marathon today.  Two were killed, and over a hundred were injured in the bomb explosions that rocked the world.  In modern developed world when a huge event occurs (whether it be a catastrophic loss, or the Super Bowl) it makes its waves on social networks.  Although tragedies like today’s are truly terrible, social networking and the impact of network effects may be a welcome development in the response to to such events.  Today millions of people relied on Twitter and Facebook updates for information that could have meant the difference between life and death.  Local police and news networks already on site were able to identify what areas to avoid as they assessed the situation and searched for additional bombs to disarm.  Updates also provided locations for response teams to congregate.  This was particularly useful people at the site were unable to place calls due to spotty cell service caused by the huge influx of attempted outgoing calls but wanted to help in any way they could.  Additionally, since phone calls could not reliably be placed, people could update friends and family members on their condition.   The news and police are also constantly updating the world on the search process for the individuals or groups responsible, and following leads and witness accounts provided them through the networks.

Today’s events were shocking, terrible and devastating.  However, social networking and the impact of a large percentage of the population using it actually provided tangible help to the situation that otherwise would have been impossible.


2 thoughts on “Social Networks Impact on the Boston Marathon Explosions”

  1. Social media is changing the way we receive and react to news. One of the reasons why the bombers were identified was because they had hundreds if not thousands of pictures during explosion from peoples phones which were used find the perpetrators. Once the bombers had been identified they could be cross referenced through Facebook using facial recognition software. Even more, they could track the bomber’s geographical locations based off his latest tweet. What I do find to be troubling is that given the multitude and precision of the data involved within our social mediums, an atrocity still occurred. It has been noted by multiple news outlets that Tamerlan (older brother) had a YouTube account in which he uploaded videos of himself vocally supporting radical Islamic causes. Coupled with the fact that the US government received a tip suggesting that Tamerlan may have associated with terrorist organizations and it is quite baffling that an attack like this occurred. I guess the question I’m getting at is this: knowing that the bomber sympathized with terrorists prior to the attack, as denoted by his youtube page, would this constitute enough of an infraction as to deem this person dangerous? Or does this constitute an invasion of privacy?. I’m no secret service agent but when someone’s openly supporting terrorist causes, one should take note.


  2. I read that people were using reddit to work through the thousands of photos taken at the marathon to help identify the bomber. The idea is that crowds are better suited to solve these kinds of tasks than only a handful of experts. I don’t know how it worked out (if they identified the bombers or not) but the strategy is just another way social media can be critical in emergency situations.

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