social media boston bombing

Boston Bombing: How Social Media Aided First Responders

April 17, 2013 - 5 minutes read - In the News..., Social Media

Social media has now become so important in delivering crisis information that the Boston Globe newspaper converted their homepage into a live Twitter feed featuring posts from government authorities, news outlets and local citizens. “Authorities have recognized that one the first places people go in events like this is to social media, to see what the crowd is saying about what to do next,” said Bill Braniff, Executive Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, told National Geographic.

Social Media Informs.


At 2:50 p.m., Kristen Surman tweeted this: “Holy shit! Explosion!” Within moments, the official Boston Police Department Twitter account confirmed an explosion at the Boston Marathon finish line, with injuries. The Boston Globe added that “dozens” were wounded, with some “dismemberment.”

“I have been following my friend’s Facebook who is near the scene and she is updating everyone before it even gets to the news,” said Sara Bozorg, a doctor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston who finished the race.

“I was first notified to the event by my daughter, who was on Twitter, and that was before it came out on CNN,” echoed Anthony C. Roman, president of a security consulting firm in New York.

I found myself on Twitter as soon as I heard the news to find the latest info, including links that would enable me to look up friends’ race times to make sure they were okay. Within seconds, I had that information.

With a terrorism suspect still on the loose, investigators are using social media to ask that people come forward with any camera phone evidence they may have.

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Social Media Organizes.

California woman Liz Kosearas took to Reddit to organize what she dubbed “Random Acts of Pizza” to send pizzas to stranded runners who were staying with strangers during the Boston bombing. “I just wanted to show some small support so I offered to buy pizza,” she explained.

“It was amazing. Within 45 minutes, hundreds of people — people from all across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Barbados — had started commenting and offering to send pizza,” she said. “It made sense to [expand the effort] so I decided to start coordinating delivery to shelters and hospitals, fire departments, police departments, anywhere people were grouping.”

Meanwhile, Jarrett Goetz inspired his friends via Facebook status updates to give stranded runners rides home.

Social Media Comforts.

The hashtag #PrayforBoston trended for hours after the event, which gave people a channel for their outpouring of grief and support. Twitter donated its top advertising spot ($200,000 worth of ads), allowing users to post inspiring messages of support using the hashtag #OneBoston. Some tweeters are using this hashtag to raise money for the One Fund charity to help the victims most affected by the blasts. Similarly, Facebook groups like R.I.P. Victims of Boston Marathon Explosions sprouted up and networks like Instagram, Tumblr and Reddit became hubs of activity.

What’s New? notes several trends to note in the social media disaster response for the Boston bombing:

  • The public and emergency managers are more adept at separating fact from fiction right away.
  • Police tackled social media head-on, updating every 10 minutes and addressing rumors as they arose.
  • Vine was used to distribute brief videos of the attack and citizen support.
  • Google used Person Finder to help people connect with loved ones.
  • There were fewer misleading tweets and doctored photos (than Hurricane Sandy) due to the event’s suddenness.
  • Crowdsourced photos and videos came pouring in.
social media boston bombing

Click here to see full-size infographic from Mashable.

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