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How the social media platform proved indespensable in Chennai’s hour of need

It’s been a week since Twitter began buzzing with tweets about the Chennai floods. Volunteer groups, celebs, the general public and victims in need of rescue have been making full use of hashtags such as #ChennaiRains and #ChennaiFloods to create a support system that offered hope in an otherwise grim situation. “The momentum of conversation that hit Twitter during the floods underlines the importance of the platform as a utility. It was only obvious for us to figure out how we could amplify the threads that were legitimate,” says Raheel Khursheed, Twitter India’s head of news, politics and government. “We tried to streamline the response. The idea was to support the volunteers with as many missing pieces as possible,” he adds. Khursheed says that his team brought in technology to build a framework to feed information into a centralised system. “We are going through the bulk of data and layering it on to maps in order to make sense of all the incoming information and share an effective response,” he says, adding, “Once the data systems are fully functional we will look at real-time updation about what people need and where.” The rules to tweeting in a crisis? Besides retweeting with relevant hashtags, it is important to keep the information to the point, to make best use of the 140 characters. With relief camps in full gear over the next few days, Twitter users can contribute by using the hashtag #ChennaiRainsHelp if they require help or want to offer help and #ChennaiVolunteer if they have supplies or can provide volunteer support.

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