Twitter users united to save a carjacking victim, illustrating the social network’s potential for good.
Thieves carjacked a Johannesburg, South Africa man’s car and shoved him in the trunk, but he managed to send an SMS message to his girlfriend. She then tweeted about the situation, including the car’s license plate number in her plea.
The South African woman chose to tweet her boyfriend’s information instead of directly calling the police, potentially stemming from widespread distrust of Johannesburg police. Twitter allows users to give anonymous tips, which helps in places where citizens do not trust law enforcement.
Within the hour, her tweet went viral, and private security employees coordinated efforts, locating the car and calling the police. The carjackers ran into a police roadblock and abandoned the vehicle, but the man escaped unharmed.
Twitter and Facebook are becoming increasingly important emergency tools, and this latest case drives home how useful they are to people in times of need.
Last fall, a woman in Tennessee used Facebook to alert police to a robbery after the thieves took her phone, pleading with friends to contact law enforcement. The Costa Concordia Italian cruise ship disaster also underscored social networks’ emergency value, as family members used Twitter and Facebook to find missing passengers.
Meanwhile, Kenyan villagers are tweeting to stop crime, raising alarm about thefts and potential dangers, showcasing how communities can coordinate routine safety efforts using Twitter.
This carjacking case exemplified how Twitter can help fight crime, suggesting how both private citizens and law enforcement officials can harness the site’s rapid-fire flow of information to prevent and solve problems.