Public Increasingly Turning to the Web in Times of Crisis

After the recent devastating earthquake off the coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami, the public turned, yet again, to the World Wide Web for information. During times of crisis and disaster, the Net continues to provide a “lifeline” to those in need of instantaneous information.

While the Internet was designed so that U.S. military communications could withstand a nuclear war, it is proving equally resilient in the face of natural disasters and even seismic shifts in global politics, according to an AFP article by author Adrian Addison.

Within minutes of a devastating earthquake and subsequent killer tsunami hitting Japan, images and information began hitting the Web. Internet viewers were quickly presented with photos, videos, and news stories chronicling massive waves rolling in from the sea surrounding Japan. One of the most watched and shared videos was of water slowly engulfing the city of Sendai’s airport. Small aircraft, cars and trucks were shown scattered amongst the shattered debris of buildings.

The AFP article specified that nearly 5 million people tuned in to video sharing site YouTube on Saturday, Mar. 12, to watch one video of a wave hitting Japan’s coastline. Several other videos had between 3 and 4 million hits. Facebook and Twitter, as well as local Japanese language Web sites, were also social networking hotspots sharing news of the disaster.

Another reason why the Net is quickly becoming the go-to news source for worldwide events is that it functions as a “virtual crisis center” of sorts. Such tools as Google’s people finder service helps locate loved ones and offers help and support to survivors of disasters. By 0300 GMT on Sunday, Mar. 13, Google’s person finder service had more than 81,000 records of people leaving messages seeking information on friends and family members who might have been affected by the disaster in Japan. The site was updating in English and Japanese by the hundreds every few minutes.

For more information on the net as an information tool during crisis and other useful social media links surrounding the Japan earthquake and tsunami, read the full article: