Richi Jennings

The swines! Flu panic blamed on Twitter and blogs.

April 28, 2009 5:00 AM EDT
In Tuesday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches the voices of reason get drowned out by the tweeting twits. Not to mention guessing the backwards song...

Darleen Hartley can't quite believe it:
Twitter is being blamed for spreading panic regarding the swine flu. Recent tweets read: “This swine flu thing is terrifying me.” “Swine flu virus which is cross between human, pig and bird virus sound like it was bio engineered.” One insightful comment regarding the phenomena was “Hypochondria in 140 characters or less.”
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Twitter’ers have been spreading misinformation and fright faster than the disease is said to be traveling ... Caution and common sense is called for, but panic escalated by messages circling the globe may be overreacting, and in themselves, dangerous ... This is a warning that those who live to tweet should take seriously.more

Evgeny Morozov is really worried:
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.
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The "swine flu" meme has so far that misinformed and panicking people armed with a platform to broadcast their fears are likely to produce only more fear, misinformation and panic ... Having millions of people wrap up all their fears into 140 characters and blurt them out in the public might have some dangerous consequences, networked panic being one of them.more

Let's play "spot the unintended pun" in Adam Ostrow's post:
To be honest, I haven’t been paying much attention to Swine Flu and have pretty much written it off as this year’s SARS or West Nile Virus, unlikely to impact me.
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Of course, this is the snowball effect that Twitter can have on a given subject, whether it be Christian Bale, Susan Boyle, Ashton Kutcher or other viral phenomenons that we’ve seen pop up since the microblogging site crossed the chasm so to speak.more

Howard Price is feeling suddenly anti-social:
This really worries me. This stuff spreads so fast and you can get exposed by people who aren’t even showing symptoms. I’m going to stay away from anyone who’s recently been to Mexico until they are way past the incubation period.more

But Jesus Diaz saves the day:
Dear hypochondriacs, if you didn't have enough with the swine flu Google map, now you can follow it all in the Center for Disease Control's emergency Twitter account.more

Chris Barton bows to the inevitable:
The Swine Flu pill spam has started and it’s taking a few Hollywood stars names in vain. Nothing out of the ordinary with the sites on the far end yet though I do expect Oseltamivir [AKA Tamiflu] will get some extra exposure once the affiliate pill sites are updated.
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Also we’ve noticed domain name registrations mentioning the word swine are up by about 30 times and you can bet your daughters it’s not all going to be “whitehat” SEO.more

Hamilton Nolan wants us to just stop panicking:
Quickly, don your paper masks! Stay indoors! The dirty Mexican pig influenza is here, to sicken you! Wocka wocka. Did you know that America had another swine flu panic, in 1976? ... The bold action ... backfired! ... The problem wasn't that bad in the first place!
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Here's what we have today: 20 confirmed cases of this flu, which has killed nobody here. It'll spread for a while. Okay. There are plenty more deadly diseases already here, killing people every day! Even in Mexico, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak, and home to a far, far worse health care system than we have, it's only killed 103 people. That's a lot fewer people than have been killed in the Juarez drug war this year. This is a page B-3 story that's gone all A-1.more

And finally...
Previously in IT Blogwatch:
Buffer overflow:
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.