Can one remain informed about a global hotspot even when traditional news media shy away from coverage? It’s a compelling question.
In fact, Twitter users in a number of Mexican cities serve as de facto urban war correspondents, according to a report by Microsoft Research.
“People often report, confirm, comment on, and disseminate information and alerts about the violence, typically as it unfolds. For example, the following Twitter message reports the time and location of blasts, along with a list of hashtags or keywords that both label and enable discovery of shared information resources:
“There are reports of blasts on Venustiano Carranza Avenue #Shooting #RiskMty #MtyFollow.”
The report notes that organized crime has threatened news media in various areas of the country, choking off the flow of information even as vulnerable citizens need trustworthy and timely information more than ever.
"Like other armed conflicts, the Mexican Drug War is also a conflict over the control of information," the report says.
So some citizens, acting partially from altruistic motives, as serving as social media “curators,” for lack of a better term, spending up to 15 hours a day posting and reposting information relevant on Twitter, often about roadblocks, gunfights and armed patrols. Through a winnowing process based on their past credibility, some of these Twitter users have huge followings. Some say they feel like they are part of a citizen network on public safety.
“Together, four curators in Monterrey have 115,678 followers, almost three times the followers of the governor @RodrigoMedina (40,822) and almost as many as the most popular news media organization @Telediario (139,919).”
The report quotes one Twitter user with a large following in Monterrey, “Claudia,” as saying: “It’s like if I was a news correspondent on social networks of the war we are living.”
To read the full report, click here, then click on the hyperlink for "The New War Correspondents: The Rise of Civic Media Curation in Urban Warfare."