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Cresci, Del Vigna - Social Media for the Common Good: the case of EARS

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Abstract - Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and floods, are just some of the devastating events that may have catastrophic consequences on wide geographical areas. A quick and targeted response to emergencies greatly contributes in mitigating the losses. In recent years we have witnessed to many situations in which crowds of volunteer citizens have helped emergency responders via the use of widespread social media. Here we argue that technology can help in supporting the population, as well as the decision makers, by introducing tools that enhance the collective awareness level, providing quick yet accurate insights into the unfolding emergency. In this short paper we introduce the EARS system, a social media-based system that supports decision makers during earthquake emergencies in Italy. We discuss the implications and the responsibility related to the usage of such systems by the decision makers. Also, we discuss on how publicly opening systems like EARS to the population might change the problem approach and we introduce relevant opportunities and issues that this solution would imply.