Mumbai terrorists on Twitter?

December 14, 2008

An AP news story 20 minutes ago (11AM Sunday) detailed new information that the Mumbai terrorists were so technologically advanced when compared to security forces, that the result was destined to result in hundreds dead.

There was no way that local police – wandering about without walkie talkies – could compete with a mission force that was using GPS-enabled devices, Internet VOIP phones and possibly IM services like Twitter. The terrorists were able to remain one step ahead of security by using the latest tech. And that’s where some irony gets injected into this scenario.

As a journalist, I don’t want commoners (people on the street) getting in my way when I’m trying to report on a story. The police don’t want journalists getting in their way when they’re responding to a situation. Unfortunately, if the police and journalists had joined forces and not been advesarial in the Mumbai tragedy, the terrorists might have been captured with loss of life in the 30-40 range instead of the hundreds.

You see, the police and other officials wanted to keep people and journalists from using Twitter and other technology to report on the movements of the security team. But had they been more in tune with the use of new tech, the police could have leveraged the citizens’ efforts and provided misinformation via these new media tools.

Additionally, the press could have maintained a similar cone of silence at least until order was restored. But all reports seem to indicate that Mumbai forces were antagonistic to the press and to the public. Therefore these groups were prone to share their information among themselves and via Twitter and other IM services – many of which were being monitored by the terrorists.

It’s reality that many people still don’t understand the power of new media. That’s unfortunate. What’s worse is that many governments still misunderstand the power of the media and traditional communication.

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