Reacting to terrorism in real time

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The (Paris) attacks give new value to social media.

Social media against Terrorism

Rumour buster Rumour buster
Initiative: Le Monde
Goal: accurate information

A lot of false information – about gunfire or arrests in other French cities – circulated in the wake of the attacks. The French newspaper Le Monde immediately published a fact-checking page, which became one of the most viewed features on its website. Local officials used this information to urge citizens to remain calm.

Organised censorshipOrganised censorship

Initiative: Brussels city officials
Goal: avoid helping terrorists

“If you’re involved in a police action, please don’t report it on social media, as that information could help terrorists.” This was basically the message sent by Belgian authorities in December. Residents happily complied, but not without a sense of humour: they flooded Twitter and Facebook with funny pictures of cats (#lolcats). It was an unprecedented mass mobilisation to keep police activity secret.

#PorteOuvertePorte ouverte

Initiative: users
Goal: finding a bed

In the hours following the attacks, more than 200,000 Parisians offered people stuck in the city a place to stay. This spontaneous initiative began trending on Twitter with the hashtag #PorteOuverte. Users created and shared interactive maps showing the locations of these “open doors”.

Safety Check

Safety check

Initiative: Facebook
Goal: reassurance

Once news of the attacks began to spread, Facebook activated its Safety Check service to allow people to reassure their loved ones that they were safe. More than 5 million users checked in. Some commentators complained about “the privatisation of security” and asked that such services be government financed in the future.


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