Swine Flu: Google maps and Twitter panic

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The weekend’s reports of an outbreak of Swine Flu originating in Mexico have created something of a stir on Twitter and done a very interesting job of highlighting some of the major differences between the real-time search system and the more established approach of Google.

On the one hand, Google has assimilated an interesting webpage on facts of the flu on their own and other people have created Google maps pinpointing all the confirmed cases worldwide. At the other end of the scale, the speed of response and democracy of search results on Twitter has produced something closer to mass panic.

There’s been a Chinese whispers effect whereby a host of tweets built around anecdotal evidence, to put it kindly, have produced a mixed bag of misinformation and hysteria. My personal favourites are the opportunist:

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and the poetic:

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There must be some interesting looking log cabins in that town.

To fan the flames of total ignorance, I’d suggest that this outbreak will have a similar effect as the bird flu a few years back. We’ll see it all over the news. They’ll be plenty of reported deaths but they’ll mostly be amongst the very old and the infirm and the WHO will get a grip in it soon enough.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself hot, sweaty and oinking uncontrollably, I suggest you get yourself down the docs pronto.

(via FP)

Daniel Sung