Japan's earthquake shows strength of social networking in crisis

Social media's global village offers prayers, resources, info

In a world of Twitter trending topics and Facebook favorites, it looks like there’s a new global trend at play.

Social networks opened their cyber doors to help with rescue efforts and information dissemination after the earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand. Now social media is buzzing to the aid of people in Japan after today’s devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Although the services, along with e-mail and other technology, also offer tools for con artists.

As before, Facebook and Twitter networks are coming alive with reactions, prayers, breaking news and even criticism of how the earthquake is being reported by media outlets.

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As the avenues of communication shut down earlier in the day, the strength of social media buoyed.

Less than an hour after the quake, with the country’s phone system knocked out, the number of tweets coming from Tokyo were topping 1,200 per minute, Mashable reports.

Google is once again offering its Person Finder — this edition for Japan — to track loved ones. Citytv reports that more than 7,000 records were listed on the site by this morning. Google has also posted a crisis response page.

Top trending topics on Twitter — #prayforJapan and #tsunami — are receiving thousands of tweets per second, according to Poynter.

Other popular hashtags include #earthquake, #JPquake, #japan and #japanquake, and there are several Facebook campaigns, including one that urges people to “Share the Japan Flag” on Facebook walls.

Later, Mashable reported that hundreds of tweets criticized a CNN anchor for laughing on the air while reporting on the natural disaster.

On Kotaku, a video game-related site, some developers are opening their doors to those left homeless, reports WebProNews. In addition, information on shelters, with locations on Google Maps, has rolled out on Twitter.

The Japan Meteorological Agency, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey have all been offering updates on their websites and information such as seismic activity monitoring, writes Cyrus Farivar of Deutsche Welle-Asia

But inside all the Twitter and Facebook traffic, government sites are a big part of the effort. From the first updates from the Pentagon that the Navy fleets in Japan were all right to the State Department blog on Japan, the feds are using Facebook, Twitter and their own websites to give updates and information to the public. Departments such as NOAA, the Defense Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have all blogged, tweeted and posted on the disaster in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is helping out in other ways. The U.S. military in Japan is preparing for a relief mission if asked by the Japanese government. The amphibious command ship Blue Ridge, now in Singapore, is loading humanitarian relief supplies and preparing to depart, the 7th Fleet posted on its Facebook page, as reported by the Army Times.

There were no reports of damage to the aircraft carrier George Washington, which was in port in Yokosuka, Japan. Many other fleets are also giving updates on their Facebook pages.

The U.S. Air Force is aiding Japanese authorities who rushed to cool down temperatures inside a nuclear power plant and avert a meltdown.

Using Air Force planes, the U.S. government has sent coolant for the Fukushima plant, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN. "We're really deeply involved in trying to do as much as we can on behalf of the Japanese and on behalf of U.S. citizens," she said.

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.

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