Twitter covered the Harlem bombing before news outlets even knew about it

Twenty-four hours have passed since an explosion claimed several lives and injured dozens in East Harlem. Mayor Bill de Blasio again visited the site where efforts have been underway to rescue folks in the rubble of 1644 and 1646 Park Ave. in Manhattan. City officials say seven people are confirmed to have died in the blast and its aftermath and at least five people remain missing.

Every day, people break news on Twitter first. This creates a new real-time global sensor network of eyewitnesses at events as they unfold. However, the process of verifying information during a fast breaking news event can pose a challenge. The sources are unique — they are in the right place at the right time tweeting what they see. But they are just regular people with Twitter accounts, previously unknown to the world at large, but now suddenly on the front line of breaking real-world events. This unique aspect of Twitter has led some to question the reliability of the information produced. However, many overlook the fact that the aggregate data patterns of early eyewitness tweets can often provide one of the most accurate lenses through which information can be confirmed.

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