Chaotic, disorganized but useful — that's how one user described the flood of information to social networking website Twitter in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.
One of the citizen journalists who was instrumental in spreading news of the attacks says the online community worked together to filter accurate reports of the unfolding tragedy and spread them across the Web.
User-generated content on websites like Twitter and Flickr played a key role in media coverage of the attacks, with various outlets gleaning insight into what was happening on the ground from what was being said on the Internet.
One of the makeshift reporters was 21-year-old electrical engineering student Aditya Sengupta, who returned from his classes at college to find his online circle of friends talking frantically about the first attacks.
"A quick search through the web and a couple of frenzied phone calls confirmed the start of what was going to be one of the bloodiest and most horrific days in Mumbai’s history," said Sengupta, who lives and studies in the city.
Sengupta said the social aspect of Twitter allowed users not just to report news but also to collaborate to spread information and organize help.
"Several constructive actions and initiatives were taken by Twitter users, such as publicizing the descriptions of one of the terrorists, the cars that they were said to have carjacked and the fact that they had even carjacked a police vehicle," he said.
"Calls for blood donations for specific blood types were also posted and widely retweeted."
However, not everything posted to Twitter was useful, Sungupta said. For every important update, there were several that were irrelevant or inaccurate.
"As the hours wore by, the importance of attribution of one’s source of news for each tweet became clear when rumors started spreading," he said.
"The appearance of [one rumor] on the BBC website added to the confusion since a number of Twitter users cited the same BBC article as a source of their information."