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Australian Police Turn to Twitter #Mythbusting During Floods

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, February 7 2013

A January 28 tweet from @QPSMedia

During natural disasters, social media can be an invaluable source of information – and misinformation.  The days leading up to Hurricane Sandy brought a digital flood of faked and misattributed photos of the storm to social networks. In times of crisis, false reports are easily circulated throughout a panicked population.  Yet the rapid proliferation of these rumors can be countered just as quickly on social networks. During Australia's flood-prone summer, law enforcement officials have been using a simple Twitter solution to curb the spread of disaster rumors.

Patrick Meier at iRevolution writes that in Queensland – which was severely affected by flooding two years ago – the state police department Twitter feed is now countering misinformation about a recent rash of floods, simply by tagging rumors with #mythbuster:

Along with official notices to evacuate, these #Mythbuster tweets were the most widely retweeted @QPSMedia messages. They were especially successful. Here is a sample: “#mythbuster: Wivenhoe Dam is NOT about to collapse! #qldfloods”; “#mythbuster: There is currently NO fuel shortage in Brisbane. #qldfloods."

The Queensland floods of 2010-2011 have already proved to be a useful case study for the efficacy of Twitter in disaster response, as a number of social network analysis studies have confirmed. Such a simple debunking strategy from a centralized public service is a great example of Twitter fact checking in use, and could provide a model for future disaster response plans. 

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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