Page last updated at 18:11 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 19:11 UK

The social networks aiding Burma

The devastating events in Burma have created headlines world-wide. But it is not just the mainstream media that is reporting on this news.

Social networks are gathering their members to spread information and to organise aid or charitable donations.

MYSPACE.COM

Chris Barton is a member of MySpace from Alabama. He uses the forums on the social network to create discussion and increase awareness, posting links to news stories and making comment.

As a part of my job I work with clients online. I started posting on the forums on MySpace about three years ago. I made some friends there and I post there pretty often.

MySpace user chris Barton
Chris Barton of Alabama uses MySpace

I like to keep up with the news, but to be honest this time around, I'm sort of disappointed with myself. I've been upset about things in Burma for a long time, but I had not been watching what was going on when the cyclone hit. I don't think the American media covers international stuff very well.

When the cyclone hit, I was sent a YouTube video about Burma again. I made a donation to the Red Cross and started to read up and update my knowledge in that area.

Most of the people I talk to face to face here in the States didn't know about the cyclone - people I know and people I work with. So the least I could do with 1,000 friends on MySpace is to try and spread the word and get them on the forum.

I wanted to post on the forum and increase awareness. The moderators noticed what I was doing, highlighted the thread and it increased the exposure so that more people knew about it.

The internet makes the world so much smaller. When everything used to seem so far away, now through connections and education it's the first step for making people take action. People want to help when they know. Without the internet, I would not have known about the cyclone and there would have been so few donations for aid.

A world response online could really make a change. Be conscientious as to who you are giving your money to - you can find all of the information online so that people can get help to the right places.

TWITTER.COM
Mike Myat Min Han uses Twitter. The microblogging system allows users to update in 140 characters online. Mike is a technician and a blogger in Singapore.

I like to use Twitter for following news updates there as I update my blog. A friend of mine has family in Burma and they were organising charity collections for aid. I wanted to let people know about how we were raising money.

There are a lot of people already on Twitter, they search it or follow it for news updates and I wanted the whole world to know from one easy post.

The collection is now known as Operation Nargis. I was told by a friend and I'm telling other friends on Twitter. It was originally based around Burmese ex-pats in Singapore.

Using Twitter and the internet really changes things. It obviously helps for getting in touch with a lot of people. All of my friends have a life online. We can communicate a lot faster and it's very convenient. All we need is internet access or phones which is great. In Singapore there is a divide between people who barely know there is an internet and people who are technicians or friends of technicians. But those who are interested use it all the time.

When it comes to Nargis, it's all about creating awareness and it's very, very useful. Hopefully the borders will open up to aid. Spreading information is what we can do at the moment. Then people can make donations that may be useful later.

FACEBOOK.COM

Peter Griffin is a columnist and freelance writer in Bombay. He uses the social network Facebook to create groups that can raise the profile of the cause as well as bring people together to discuss the topic. He also runs a blog which gathers information on the region that people can add to or use as a resource.

The blog is mainly about organising. To get things together online to aid Burma. It's mainly a place for news aggregation but it is also good for trying to get in touch with people who have friends in Burma.

It's hard to contact people in Burma, so this is a place for a lot of ex-pat groups. Sadly it's still hard to find too many Burmese people who are still in their home country and can join us online.

Peter Griffin in Bombay
Peter Griffin in Bombay uses Facebook

I am physically in Bombay but the Facebook group is all over the place. We also have a Google group base that grows. People come in with various sorts of expertise to try and help. Surinam experts joined during the floods to help, Americans from Hurricane Katrina. There are now 120 on the Google group. People drop by to leave a comment or read an article or follow a link.

Getting hold of people inside Burma is not working. My friend Angelo online is in Bahrain and spends a lot of time networking this region and works with various relief networks. He tries to keep in touch with other organisations. We have the same thing all over though, no matter what the network. People are waiting for visas, there are people further away wanting to help but don't know how. We hear a lot about events outside the country, but we have no clue about what is happening on the ground.

We're basically spreading the word until we can get more information. Social networking is a start. The lack of awareness is a big deal, even in India which is next door. Small articles appear in newspapers, but they are all about the politics - not how to help.

In Bombay - the social networks are fairly popular but you see the same people on different networks. Facebook changed the game a little bit. Orkut was too young for some people and other networks were dipped into but Facebook reaches more people and this is why I post about Burma here as well as on my blog.




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