Iraqi Deaths: The serious side of Twitter

Note: This post is not meant to be a commentary on the current state of Iraqi politics and society. Talking about such a topic is way outside the purview of this humble little blog. Rather, the intent of this short article is to highlight a more serious side of the microblogging service Twitter, which has skyrocketed in popularity in recent months.

* Omar Farooq al Ani / Farouq Al-Aani / Omar Faruq al-Ani, , male, married, parent killed on 29 Jan 2009 at L:al Madhayif Street, Ameriyah ... about 22 hours ago from web

* Hazem Sallam Ahmed / Hazim Salim Ahmed, 51, male, unknown, parent killed on 29 Jan 2009 at L:Al Amil, west Mosul ... about 23 hours ago from web

* Brother of Abbas Farhan al-Jabouri, adult, male, unknown, unknown killed on 29 Jan 2009 at L:Mohammed al Malih, near Mandali ... about 24 hours ago from web

It's been said a million times -- Twitter is pretty damn banal.
But as I rifled through the above names on @IraqDeaths, the feed for Iraq Body Count, an unaffiliated database chronicling Iraqi civilian deaths since the beginning of the 2003 military intervention in Iraq, it hit me -- there's some serious stuff out there in the Twitterverse, if you just know where to look.
Unfortunately, not many people are looking.
Iraqi Deaths currently has 87 followers. Conversely, this hot, scantily-clad "philologist" has more than 7,500. Is that surprising? Not at all. Nor should it be. Most folks don't log into Twitter to check out civilian death counts -- and I can't say I blame them. Not only is that extremely morbid, it's pretty damn depressing.
But the Iraqi Deaths channel is pretty new. Its followers are going to go up, because as a marketing tool, Twitter is perfect for raising social awareness.
Think about it ... there's a certain, well, elegance, to the Iraqi Deaths channel. In under 140 characters we get a name, an occupation, and date for the death. The statistic gets personified. It becomes real. It compels a user to click on the link and check out the graphs. It encourages debate. It encourages education.
And that's what other civic-minded Twitters are starting to latch onto -- the power this service can have to spark fires of outrage and indignation via posts of 140 characters or less.
Thinking of adopting a child in Nairobi, but don't know where to begin? Check out UNICEF's channel and get the quick and dirty on how you can help.
Want to get inspired to help build homes in Los Angeles? Bounce on over to Habitat for Humanity's L.A. channel and see what you can do.
The channels are out there. The information is starting us in the face, if we'll just take the time to read it. And at 140 characters, it shouldn't take too long.

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