What? Devastating floods in the Indian city of Chennai have prompted locals to organize ad hoc disaster relief through social media, co-ordinating search and rescue, food distribution, and shelter.
So what? Social media is providing a key coordination function in disaster relief. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter enable decentralized community-based responses that can be faster and more effective than government-led actions. These spontaneous network-based approaches can offer crucial insights into the immediate needs and capacities of the communities affected by disaster. As global Internet access proliferates, official disaster relief efforts will need to engage with this new reality of organic network-based responses and the many new actors they give voice to.