Sarah Abdurrahman is a producer for On the Media
So this is pretty unusual. I just got back to my hotel room and got a Skype call from John Scott-Railton, the guy behind @Jan25voices, who I work with on my @feb17voices Twitter feed. I was on a call with my mom so I didn't answer right away, but he sent me a frantic message saying that he just heard I was arrested.
The arrest rumor was starting to get picked up on Twitter, and John was trying to verify that I was ok so he could stop the rumor before it got too out of control. I immediately went to find the tweet that started it all:
Almost as soon as I read it, I received another message, this time from Alex Goldman, a fellow producer at OTM:
"Hi. This may sound like a weird question, but have you been arrested?"
I assured both of them that I had NOT been arrested, but my immediate thought was "what if I get arrested now? No one will believe it now that someone has cried wolf!"
And this brings up a fundamental flaw with Twitter. Because there is no filtering process, false information can spread like wildfire, and information that proves not to be true can undermine how people look at credible information that is flowing through the TwitterSphere. Even in my own experience, as I follow Twitter feeds on Libya with my skeptical eye, I sometimes still get caught up in reading wild stories that seemingly become more legitimate when seen in written form.
At the same time, however, I can draw comfort in the fact that IF I had been arrested, perhaps it would not have gone unnoticed, and there is a certain sense of security in knowing that people might be wondering if I was ok. Twitter is incredibly useful in getting the world--or at least other people on Twitter--to bear witness to events they would otherwise have no access to. And having witnesses in these trying times is the greatest asset that anyone has against oppression. In this regard, social media has proven invaluable.