Sipping from the firehose: Using Twitter to make sense of the Middle East

A laptop user visits the Twitter homepage.

Andy Carvin is a senior strategist at NPR and since the situation in Tunisia first started boiling several weeks ago, he's been on Twitter about 16 hours a day. He's been reading tweets, "retweeting" information that seemed vital, using the platform to gather more details or verify something he's already heard. It's not storytelling in the traditional journalistic way but if you can get the hang of it, it's the most immediate way of staying up to date.

He recalls a recent incident where he had seen tweets reporting that a town in Libya had been "wiped off the map." Carvin knew there had been attacks but hadn't heard so severe an assessment so he started contacting his sources near there for more details and they responded.

Andy Carvin says he has actually learned to be wary of words like "breaking" and "confirmed" in tweets, since they're often included with information that is false or unconfirmed.

We also speak with Mike Ananny, a Microsoft Research post-doc and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He says Twitter can be hard to navigate for news but if you start with trusted sources, then branch out to who THEY are following, you can do pretty well.

Also in this program, if you want to sleep better, turn off that dang screen. It's another installment of According To A Recent Study, this time with music by Amanda French.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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