Twitter Explodes With the Swine Flu

Will the microblogging tool be a force for good or evil as the swine flu progresses?

It’s not just the traditional, ratings-hungry news media that’re trying to drive the world’s population into a panicked frenzy over the swine flu. Now we have Twitter to do that too!

Coverage of the swine flu on the microblogging tool has exploded recently, and has so far taken the usual Twitter form: the feed is a mix of links to news, random reactions and 140-word witticisms regarding the virus — e.g. "@Orlanded: If anyone should be worried about the swine flu, its kermit the frog... I'm just sayin, Ms Piggy was kinda loose...").

And, like the previous times Twitter emerged as a forum for information-sharing (Mumbai attacks, etc.) there is probably a combination of credible information and total bullshit.

For example, Twitter is currently bursting with reports that two deaths in LA have been linked to swine flu. Don’t know if that’s true yet — but, considering that no one’s really even sure that all of the 149 deaths attributed to the virus in Mexico City were directly caused by the flu (health experts suggest that some may have resulted from a combination of factors), it’s certainly far too early to tell.

Anyway, I don’t see reports of U.S. deaths from the flu in any major newspapers. Will this be an example of Twitter transmitting information faster than doddering traditional media? Or of the microblogging tool spreading alarming falsehoods?

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