The Power of Twitter and Social Media Reporting during the Bangkok Unrest

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Social media has proven to be faster and can be more effective than traditional media outlets such as newspapers and TV, while the BBC has a...

Social media has proven to be faster and can be more effective than traditional media outlets such as newspapers and TV, while the BBC has adapted to the use of new media to their advantage.

By Karn G. Bulsuk


In Bangkok, the tense stand-off and subsequent violence between authorities and the red shirt protestors have kept the city on edge. Major modes of transportation, such as the BTS Skytrain or the MRT Underground have suddenly announced service curtailments, such as skipping certain stations stopping at dangerous areas, or early and complete closure of the train systems at short notice as situations escalate.

Traditional media has proven too slow for people to communicate such information to people. For example, on the morning of May 14, the BTS announced that it would severely limit services and later in the afternoon, announced the entire system would be closed at 4:00 pm for safety reasons.

The information appeared directly on the company’s Twitter pages and was passed around at lightning speed. It almost took 2 hours before the same story appeared on the Bangkok Post website. The difference in speed allowed me to update all my colleagues on the situation before they were even awake that morning morning.

Gaining the Inside Story

Twitter has also allowed us to gain the inside story, as normal people within the red zones are also able to give immediate updates along with photos and movies. I was aware throughout the day of immediate developments from friends in the field, such as a doctor at Chulalongkorn Hospital who helped to report on the current situation inside ground zero.

I also had a friend who was armed with an iPhone, a data plan and Facebook mobile and a sense of citizen journalist. He was there throughout the day amongst the fighting, taking pictures, reporting on the situation in real time and immediately posting them onto Facebook, providing an alternative to traditional media, which may be unable to provide the full story.

BBC’s Use of Twitter


The BBC is one of the old media organizations which has embraced new media and has the right balance. It helped them to conduct more through reporting through impromptu citizen journalists who are actually seeing the situation right before their eyes.

I was acting as the middleman, collating information being posted on Facebook from the friend mentioned previously.

From there, I uploaded his pictures and comments to BBC News’s Have Your Say Twitter account (@BBC_HaveYourSay), to give them an on-site perspective. After a regular feed of information, they published one of my tweets and also contacted me, asking:
@karnbulsuk Hi. Would it be possible for us to speak to your friend in Bangkok? If so, please DM us their contact details. Thanks.
I arranged the interview, and they later spoke to him on his perspective and what he witnessed. His interview appeared on the BBC News Website later that evening at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8681824.stm

It allowed the BBC to report a ground view of the situation without requiring multiple journalists on the ground reporting and trying to find people to interview. From a business perspective, it also saved them money while giving people the opportunity to speak up: a win-win situation.

Photo Credits
Hand Clapper by Takeaway. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
BBC News Studio Photo by Adele Prince. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license.
The BBC Logo, Twitter logo and Facebook logo are copyright of their respective organizations.

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