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Hurricanes and hashtags: How the media and NGOs treat citizens’ voices online in humanitarian emergencies

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Twitter, Instagram and SMS messages have entered into the defining images and texts of humanitarian disasters, theoretically allowing survivors to play a role in the framing of such crises. Yet research suggests that both mainstream media and NGOsĀ – whose symbiotic relationships traditionally framed such stories – have cloned and absorbed such content, potentially restricting whose voices are heard. Issues around privacy and copyright are yet to be resolved in the mainstream media, while NGOs have turned to western bloggers rather than beneficiaries to mediate their message. This article draws on around 50 semi-structured interviews with those whose content was used by UK mainstream media; journalists from the main broadcast and print outlets in the UK; and members of each of the thirteen UK Disaster Emergency Committee aid agencies who responded to recent crises including the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake. It aims to answer how voices of citizens in crises are being mediated and mediatized, and what issues the use of this content raise around contextual integrity of privacy. It concludes by examining whether NGOs’ engagement online allows the voices of the marginalized to emerge.
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Keywords: NGOs; Twitter; disasters; humanitarian crises; journalist; social media; user-generated content

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: City University London

Publication date: 2015-07-01

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UA-1313315-26
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