Twitter, the world's third-largest social media website, has taken on a role that nobody could have expected. It is now both breaking and making the news.
To break the news means to publish a news item before anyone else. Obviously, Twitter is great for that. It gives anyone the ability to instantly publish anything he or she sees. Many people get breaking (brand-new) news via Twitter. And tweets by celebrities, from singers to presidents, can become news stories in their own right. But making the news, changing and affecting the news, is something else. How does Twitter do that?
Mostly, Twitter makes news by helping people organize. Soon after Twitter was developed, people realized how useful it could be. For people planning protests or gatherings, Twitter has a great way to spread the word. After all, Twitter can reach more people in a shorter time than emailing or texting.
So people started using Twitter to organize. That made sense. But then they found out something even more useful about Twitter: it could help organize people on the run. During protests around the world, from Iran to the UK and the United States, people were able to tell huge groups about where to go while they were already in the streets. People used Twitter to tell each other where roadblocks were, where a street was open, or where the police might be. Using Twitter helped the protesters organize and move more effectively. And in this sense, Twitter actually madenews. People could not have organized so well or so quickly without it.
People say information is power, and the Internet has always been used to spread information. These days, Twitter is the fastest way to put that power in the hands of the public.