Social Media and Disasters, and More from CRS

09.13.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The growing use of social media — such as Twitter and Facebook — in responding to emergency situations is examined in a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.

“In the last five years social media have played an increasing role in emergencies and disasters,” the report notes. “Social media sites rank as the fourth most popular source to access emergency information. They have been used by individuals and communities to warn others of unsafe areas or situations, inform friends and family that someone is safe, and raise funds for disaster relief.”

While they have still untapped potential for improving emergency communications, social media can also be used — inadvertently or maliciously — to disseminate false or misleading information, the report observes. See “Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations,” September 6, 2011.

With few exceptions, congressional leaders of both parties are opposed to allowing direct public access to Congressional Research Service reports like this one.  Perhaps they wish to foster a healthy public skepticism about the validity of official restrictions on government information, or a heightened appreciation for unauthorized disclosures.

At any rate, some recent CRS reports that are not publicly available from CRS include the following (all pdf).

“India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations,” September 1, 2011. (This report notes in passing the curious statistic that “some 40% of American hotel rooms are owned by Indian-Americans.”)

“Desalination: Technologies, Use, and Congressional Issues,” August 15, 2011.

“U.S. Energy: Overview and Key Statistics,” July 29, 2011.

“U.S. Renewable Electricity Generation: Resources and Challenges,” August 5, 2011.