CDC's social media blitz outpaces even the zombies

During recent concerns over a swine flu pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got a good workout in the social-media world. CDC’s social media site, provides Twitter updates, podcasts, widgets and other tools to keep people abreast of the latest developments. At one point, the agency said it was getting 8 million visitors a day to its site and about one flu-related tweet per second.

The upside: Although the H1N1 virus proved not to be as serious as feared, CDC gained a lot of experience in using these tools to distribute information. If the real deal hits, the agency can combine new and traditional communications to reach more people more quickly than ever.

The downside: Other people can tweet, too. While CDC was sending good data, some folks began re-tweeting a satirical story about a mutation of swine flu turning people into zombies. What’s with spoofers and zombies, anyway? The story originated on a site designed to look like a BBC Web page, complete with related links and statistics (“Mexico – 168 suspected deaths – 8 confirmed – 12 zombies”).

It was clearly a spoof, so no harm done. But it’s worth keeping in mind that in a crisis, which can lead to panic, the unscrupulous might take advantage of these open tools.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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