First, I'd like to allay the fears of all those in Cringeville. You cannot catch swine flu by using Twitter -- even if you're one of Porky's followers. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the swirl of misinformation and panic that has flooded everybody's favorite microblog.
Net.effect's Evgeny Morozov says the swine flu has turned the Twitterati into the jitterati:
There are quite a few reasons to be concerned about Twitter's role in facilitating an unnecessary global panic about swine flu... having millions of people wrap up all their fears into 140 characters and blurt them out in the public might have some dangerous consequences, networked panic being one of them.
What could happen? People shun bacon and ham, sending the pork bellies market into freefall. People cancel their travel plans, especially to Latin America, and walk around wearing surgical masks. People with head colds decide they're really dying from a porcine-borne bug and flood emergency rooms. That in turn could cause shortages of the Tamiflu vaccine for those who actually need it.
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And did you know that swine flu isn't really a flu at all but an attack of Advanced Biological Warfare aimed at reconfiguring our DNA? Hey I read it on the Interwebs, so it must be true.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has its own Twitter feed, which as I write this boasts 14,139 followers, or only 1,439,680 less than Ashton Kutcher. Its latest tweet:
20 confirmed cases of swine flu in U.S. 1 hospitalized. All have fully recovered. http://bit.ly/uycgL #swineflu