New Delhi: Barely minutes after Satyam Computer Services Ltd chairman B. Ramalinga Raju’s confession cum resignation letter became public, the news was all over the micro blogging website Twitter.
“Satyam head quits, commits fraud!” said one tweet soon after the news became public. Others were more personal and spontaneous (OMG! Cannot believe it! Satyam in huge trouble!).
As time went by and news of the debacle spread, people faithfully twittered whatever information they had access to or heard. This involved individuals linking to news websites that they had read to get a clearer picture, or news websites themselves posting information as and when they got it—such as the key points of Raju’s letter to the company’s board. There were also jokes, curses, worries— “Satyam’s fiasco is generating a lot of related implications, I just hope that global markets don’t use it to stereotype India”—and even a link to a website that a zealous Raju fan had made decrying the “overreaction” by the media.
Citizen journalism: As time went by and news of the debacle spread, people twittered what information they had access to or heard.
What ultimately surfaced, though fragmented in nature, was an outpouring of information in such volume that the term “Satyam” became the “most trended” topic on twitter. And this was all brought together in one coherent whole by Twitter’s search option, which allows an interested user to look at all the collated information. It was not possible to determine exactly how many tweets were posted on Satyam, as Twitter does not give out such statistics.
What this shows is the extent of both global and local interest in the issue, and how popular Twitter has become among the Web 2.0 generation in India. The Satyam saga is the second instance in which Twitter has come to the forefront as a crucial means of both sending out and receiving information.
The Mumbai terrorist attacks of 26 November saw unprecedented participation on the website, with updates from people on the ground as well as online. People were quick to rally around the term (#Mumbai—and now #satyam) and in many instances, information reached Twitter even before it was reported on mainstream news media.
What Twitter does is give people 140 characters in which to answer the question “What are you doing right now?”, either on the Internet or via a text message to a country-specific number. (In India, the number is 5566511.) Setting up an account is free and once created, a user can choose to “follow” people or organizations or topics—meaning that every time an update is made, it is automatically updated on the users twitter “home” or delivered via text message to a designated mobile number. The ease with which information can be received as well as its flexibility across the online and mobile platforms has made it extremely popular.
Of course, Twitter has been decried as being “frivolous” and “pointless”, which it has been known to be on occasion. But as Mumbai and now Satyam have shown, it also has the potential to be so much more.