What’s setting the Internets ablaze today? Seems everyone is all a’twitter about swine flu. In addition to actual news coverage, there’s a lot of discussion about how this is being discussed online. One commentator calls swine flu discussions on Twitter unnecessary:
The panic has spread using social networking website, Twitter, which is almost unnecessary to the same degree as the Large Hadron Collider “destroying the Universe” back in September last year. Nevertheless, people have a right to be concerned and worried.
So remember kids, it’s ok to be concerned and worried, just keep it to yourself please.
Also weighing in is self-described Internet communications expert Evgeny Morozov with a piece titled Swine flu: Twitter’s power to misinform. It seems that everyone’s twittering about swine flu due to peer pressure:
Thus, Unlike basic internet search – which has been already been nicely used by Google to track emerging flu epidemics – Twitter seems to have introduced too much noise into the process: as opposed to search requests which are generally motivated only by a desire to learn more about a given subject, too many Twitter conversations about swine flu seem to be motivated by desires to fit in, do what one’s friends do (i.e. tweet about it) or simply gain more popularity.
So I guess twitter is like a giant global high school. Morozov’s suggestion? A real hard-ass vice principal:
In moments like this, one is tempted to lament the death of broadcasting, for it seems that the information from expert sources – government, doctors, and the like – should probably be prioritized over everything else and have a higher chance of being seen that the information from the rest of one’s Twitter-feed, full of speculation, misinformation, and gossip.
Morozov goes on to discuss the trend of corporations using Twitter to shape the conversation about their brands:
A recent New York Times piece highlighted how a growing number of corporations like Starbucks, Dell, and Whole Foods are turning to Twitter to monitor and partially shape conversation about particular brands or products. What the piece failed to mention was that conversations about more serious topics (like pandemics- and their tragic consequences) could be shaped as well.
He may be on the money there. Let’s try some searches on Twitter:
A little explanation is in order. The CDC recommends two drugs for treatment and prevention of swine flu: oseltamivir or zanamivir. Tamiflu is the brand name of oseltamivir, an antiviral marketed by Roche Pharmaceuticals and created by Gilead Sciences. You may have heard of Gilead Sciences and Tamiflu during the bird flu pandemic a few years back. You’ve also probably heard of a couple of their shareholders and former board members: George Schultz and Donald Rumsfeld. They made out all right on avian flu, and I bet they’ll do ok this time around too.