Twitter Provides a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Twitter played a critical role in stopping the terrorists

Bloggers across Mumbai fed live updates of the unfolding action after terrorists launched waves of attacks in the heart of India’s financial capital, bringing the emergence of citizen journalism in news coverage to the fore in India.

Social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, were instantly updated with on-the-scene information by people. Minute-by-minute updates on social networking and micro-blogging sites not just satiated the writers’ hunger for expressing themselves, but also gave people more diverse news.

In fact, instead of switching on the television, many followed the action live on microblogging Twitter by searching the site for Bombay and Mumbai. In certain cases, Twitter updates reportedly appeared hours before the first TV stories.

Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

 Tweeting the horror

The minute the news of the terrorist attacks broke out, sites like Twitter were inundated with a huge volume of messages. Twitter seemed to be the most popular choice among other social media sites. Just minutes after the first shots were fired; Tweeters (Twitter users) in Mumbai gave instant eyewitness accounts of the unfolding drama.

Messages, known as `tweets’, were being posted to the site at a rate of around 80 tweets every five seconds when the news of the tragedy first broke, according to some estimates. Some bloggers provided running descriptions and commentaries from near the action, while others gave vent to their emotions.

“I’ve been tweeting almost all night from Mumbai. Upset and angry and bereft,” said businesswoman Dina Mehta on her blog,


Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

 Shooting a closeup

Images of the attacks also surfaced on photo-sharing website Flickr. The site proved a useful source of haunting images chronicling the aftermath of the attacks.

Photographer Vinukumar Ranganathan has attracted hundreds of thousands of visits to his Flickr photo page where he has published a chilling slide show depicting the aftermath of the attacks.


Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

 Flames rising above the Taj Mahal Hotel

Twitter came under some criticism as well in the blogosphere for divulging too many details that could prove helpful to the gunmen holed up in the hotels with their hostages and who may have been monitoring blog sites.

“It’s a terrorist strike. Not entertainment. So tweeters, please be responsible with your tweets,” said one blogger identified as [email protected]


Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

 Soldiers under cover

Unfortunately, the site also contained misleading threads, some of it purporting to be from intelligence services. In fact, many of the posts on Twitter amounted to unsubstantiated rumors and wild inaccuracies.

According to CNN, a rumor that the Indian government was asking Tweeters to stop live updates to avoid compromising its security efforts was published and republished on the site.

This was reportedly fueled by certain news websites, which posted the Tweet on their live update. It read: “Indian government asks for live Twitter updates from Mumbai to cease immediately. ALL LIVE UPDATES – PLEASE STOP TWEETING.”


Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

 Reporter testing the crowd’s reaction

Several local Indian news channels were reported to have carried a live feed of the Twitter updates on the Mumbai attacks.

Twitter’s contributors also questioned the veracity of certain TV news reports, pointing out contradictions and errors. When Indian reporters announced an end to Taj hotel siege time and again, Tweeters contended that gunfights were continuing. “Locals say gunfire still happening at Taj,” said one feed, hours after fighting was said to have finished.


Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Lending a helping hand

Many social network users also sent pleas for blood donors to make their way to specific hospitals in Mumbai where doctors were faced with blood shortage and rising casualties. Throughout the night, bloggers were active compiling news reports and contact information and information on blogging sites like

Tweeters were also mobilized to help with transcribing a list of the dead and injured from hospitals, which were quickly posted online. also offered advice to those with friends and family in the city. “Suggest you avoid calling. Lines are bound to be jammed.”


Twitter Provided a Vital Link in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Footage of one of the terrorists

Other websites also quickly filled up with information: Wikipedia had a page up on the attacks by early Thursday morning. A Google map was created just hours after the explosions to mark the locations that had been hit.

Dozens of videos of the attacks have flooded the YouTube too. Gauravanomics has an exhaustive list of online coverage of the attacks. Slained Anti-Terrosism Squad (ATS) chief, Hemant Karkare, was reportedly the most searched topic on Google for nearly an hour after his death was declared.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation on Thursday was highly viewed, followed by angry comments.


Via Times of India