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The Podium

Tuesday, April 28

Fueling Hysteria, 140 Characters at a Time

By Brad

Yesterday we posted about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention turning to Twitter to keep people informed about the spread of “Swine Flu.” But as Foreign Policy points out, the popular micro-blogging service is also spreading misinformation:

Who knew that swine flu could also infect Twitter? Yet this is what appears to have happened in the last 24 hours, with thousands of Twitter users turning to their favorite service to query each other about this nascent and potentially lethal threat as well as to share news and latest developments from Mexico, Texas, Kansas and New York (you can check most recent Twitter updates on the subject by searching for “swine flu” and “#swineflu”). And despite all the recent Twitter-enthusiasm about this platform’s unique power to alert millions of people in decentralized and previously unavailable ways, there are quite a few reasons to be concerned about Twitter’s role in facilitating an unnecessary global panic about swine flu.