Spreading News & Offering Help Via the Internet
As quickly as the news filtering out of Japan has become more grim, millions of concerned people have taken to the Internet to learn about the unfolding tragedy. And, like Haiti’s earthquake last year, governments, organizations and humanitarian activists are using the web as a tool to help.
Unlike the Haiti quake, there are literally hundreds of videos users have uploaded to sites like Vimeo and YouTube that captured what happened during the 8.9 magnitude temblor, and the dozens of aftershocks. This video, uploaded from Tokyo, gives viewers a sense as to how long, powerful, and terrifying it was.
Media organizations in the Pacific region – like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation mentioned here earlier – and those elsewhere – such as here in the Washington Post – have turned portions of their websites into community bulletin boards of sorts, allowing users to post messages, images, and important updates.
The Global Voices organization in Boston is collecting thousands of tweets, social network updates, SMS and other web communications and translating them from Japanese to English.
The great need for information is creating some unusual partnerships. For example, the weekly entertainment publication “Time Out Tokyo” has turned it’s popular Twitter feed into a messaging service of a sort, posting important updates for those dealing with the aftermath in Tokyo. In fact, Twitter is proving its value in crises once again, with the hashtags #tsunami and #prayforjapan trending high.
Similarly, John V Roos, the US Ambassador to Japan, is using his Twitter feed to connect friends and family of those in Japan to those outside. For many, it’s proving invaluable.
Humanitarian organizations have successfully used the Internet in a variety of previous disasters – such as the 2004 “Boxing Day” tsunami to earthquakes in Iran and Chile and last year’s devastating floods in Pakistan – and hope to do so again. Computerworld has published and is updating a large link-list of organizations for individuals looking to contribute time, resources or money. The Poynter organization has also compiled an extensive list of various social media resources available.
And now bloggers anywhere in the world can help out, too, with the addition of what’s called a “Hello Bar.” It’s essentially a bit of code that even novice bloggers can just cut and paste into their site; everyone who lands on their page would see a small alert bar at the very top of the page. Bloggers can encode whatever message they wish – as seen here in a Mashable post, it might read: “Please donate to the Red Cross” or “Please help the people of Japan with needed foods and medicine by clicking here” or what-have-you. The Hello Bar will even allow you to insert a hyperlink to any group you wish.
We will continue to update these lists, links and stories throughout the crisis; just search under the tags “Japan earthquake”, “tsunami” or “emergency.”