Central Social Media Actors in Disaster Information Networks

March 2016 (VOL. 34, NO. 1)

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Government agencies and media outlets traditionally have played central roles in disaster information networks. However, their hub status has slightly diminished as social media empowers others to communicate more easily. Little systemic research has identified the key actors in these new information networks. This paper examines Twitter hashtag networks during four disasters, the Boston Marathon bombing; the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion; the Midwest spring flooding in Peoria, Illinois; and the Moore, Oklahoma tornado. Findings indicate minimal government and nonprofit involvement. While traditional media outlets still played an important role in some networks, others were more heavily shaped by influential private citizens. We examine those networks by identifying key actors and evaluating their message content and conclude by offering an initial typology for hashtag information networks and discuss directions for future research.