For millions who lost power but could still access the internet on mobile devices, Twitter served as a critical lifeline after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast.
Twitter reported that people sent more than 20 million tweets from October 27 through November 1, spanning the time the storm approached to its aftermath. This was more than twice the usage from the two previous days.
From the day the storm made landfall on Oct. 29 through Oct. 31, 34% of the Twitter traffic about the storm, involved news organizations providing content, government sources offering information, people sharing their own eyewitness accounts and still more passing along information posted by others. Some of these were tales of courage and helping out neighbors during and after the storm.
Some accounts shared by many, including mainstream news organizations, turned out to be false. One of the most-discussed was the claim that the New York Stock Exchange floor had flooded with three feet of water and that the power company, Con Edison, was shutting off power to all of Manhattan.
The second largest percentage (25%) of Twitter conversation about the hurricane over these three days involved people sharing photos and videos, speaking to the degree to which visuals have become a more common element of this realm. These images included everything from pictures and video of the storm, post-storm destruction, falsified pictures about the disaster and self portraits of people during the storm. There was interplay between news and eyewitness content with news organizations retweeting or sharing citizen images. As with some of the text-based tweets, though, some images turned out to have been faked.