Think before you tweet, think before you pay

In the wake of the Haiti tragedy, a lot of organisations have come forward to offer assistance in their own way and many people have been using social media to spread the news and make their friends aware of ways they can make a contribution. So here, people have been sharing info about where we can drop stuff off like water, clothing, nonperishables, or information about account numbers where individuals can make financial donations to the Red Cross etc. To say that Haiti has overtaken sites like Facebook and Twitter may be a bit of an understatement.

I was pleasantly surprised to read that American Airlines had offered to fly doctors and nurses to Haiti for free to lend their skills to the relief effort. I also heard that UPS had offered to ship relief packages free of charge once they were under 50lbs.
The trouble with this is that neither was true.

It's amazing how quickly you can get people to respond via these social networking sites and it speaks to the growing influence of the technology in today's society.

Yet for every status update and tweet which gave accurate information, there was always going to be the possibility of those updates which would explode and circulate rapidly within the social media universe, which bloomed from one person's idea of a joke!

Communication as I said before has evolved rapidly and continues to do so. But evolution does not always necessarily mean progress, in a social sense. Whether it was a misunderstanding, a hope that spreading the rumour would light a fire under the management of certain organisations, or whether it was just a lame attempt at being funny in the midst of tragedy, misinformation today can create more havoc than say, 5 years ago, for the mere fact that in seconds, misinformation can reach every nook and cranny in the world. The Haitian consulate was inundated with calls from medical personnel eager to get on a free flight to Haiti. In a time when the consulate is looking to identify ways to get people in, get food in, locate aid workers etc, having to deal with the consequences of a silly hoax is more than a bother. It is a total waste of valuable time and resources.

It is along these lines that even though we feel compelled to reach into our pockets and make a contribution to help the survivors in Haiti, we still should be guided by common sense and not buy wholesale the info circulating on the web. There will always be scam artists who, sadly, will look to profit from the tragedy.

If in doubt, stick with the Red Cross and they can tell you how you can make your contributions, be it via text, via banks or what have you.

To clear things up though, both AA and UPS have already made contributions, though not of the type circulated in the Twitterverse.

CNN: "We've incentivized our 62 million AAdvantage members to give cash to Red Cross and receive bonus miles from us. "We cannot fly any passengers to Haiti at this time and our efforts on the humanitarian front are as described above." (AA spokesperson, Tim Smith)

CNN: In a blog post Wednesday on UPS's Web site, a spokeswoman debunked the rumor and said that destruction of Haiti's roads and communications networks "means our own shipping services to Haiti are on hold."

UPS is donating $1 million to help the people of Haiti through relief agencies.

Photo: CNN


Anonymous said...

Apart from misinformation there are also many opportunities for unscrupulous persons to take advantage of a sad situation to make a quick buck. I urge persons to try as much as possible to contact larger organizations that have a track record and international contacts to ensure that money and items donated can actually reach haiti. At present that is through the UN, the Red Cross and special government and military convoys of the Nations involved in the effort

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