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Did Twitter Really Help to Land a Plane in Haiti?

msfplane.jpgA Daily News story claims that Twitter helped to get permission for a plane to land in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Sunday. The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) plane was initially denied permission to land at the crowded airport despite previous guarantees by the United Nations and the United States Department of Defense. MSF tweeted about the situation, prompting Twitter users to send a barrage of messages to the United States Air Force Twitter account pleading that the plane, which contained MSF staff and a full hospital, be accommodated. The Air Force replied to many of the people personally, saying that “[They’re] working it right now. More to follow…”. The plane then received permission to land, three and a half hours after MSF’s initial tweet.

Was it the pleas of many Twitter users messaging @usairforce that caused the Air Force to change its decision and allow the plane to land? No. And the people making the pleas, who were only trying to help the situation in Haiti, were not fully briefed on what was surely a complex situation.

What it does show, however, is the ability and willingness of people to rally once again around a good cause on Twitter. This was most notably demonstrated when Twitter users rallied in support of protesters in Iran last year. It also shows how Twitter can help people at home communicate with those on scene, with both MSF and the Air Force communicating with Twitter users.

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