How news of Japan's earthquake, tsunami spread on Facebook

Here are some more details on how Facebook played a communication role in the recent earthquake and resulting tsunami and Japan.

The Facebook Page "Global Disaster Relief on Facebook" has posted 10 graphs that show how news of Japan's 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami spread on the social network via status messages, courtesy of the Facebook Data Team. Although the actual map used is quite old and thus inaccurate (the Soviet Union was disbanded two decades ago), the data overlaid on top is quite interesting (I've put together a Photo Gallery for your viewing pleasure).

The images incorporate 4.5 million status updates from 3.8 million users on Facebook, relating to "Japan", "earthquake", and "tsunami" as a function of time. It is the first time the social network has plotted status updates on a map in this way.

The events in Japan were all over Facebook, with countless posts being made every second. Frequent status updates provided information about both natural disasters as well as the situation of family and friends in the country.

Users swapped news articles, photos, and video footage about both the earthquake and tsunami. In Japan, Facebook served as a communications alternative as many cell phones had stopped working. For many around the world, the social network was a primary source of information for the tragedy and its consequences.

I have already been invited to two events on Facebook asking me to donate and help those in Japan, and while they seem perfectly legitimate, scams are already spreading on the social network. Fraudsters around the world are quickly taking advantage of this tragic event, as they have done in the past to solicit donations and spread malware via charity scams and fake news websites.

If you want to donate via Facebook, the aforementioned Facebook Page is a good place to start. For example, here are the last three updates:

The U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, Japan and KadenaAirBase are telling their Facebook fans that monetary donations are preferred over clothing and goods for victims of last week's earthquake and tsunami. Learn more:

Zynga and Facebook have partnered with Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund to get users to donate money through the purchase of virtual goods in CityVille, FrontierVille, FarmVille and other games.

The American Red Cross and Save the Children are using the popular Facebook application Causes to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Consider giving to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Fund ( and the Help Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Victims ( campaign today.

One of my friends is currently in Japan for a year, and the easiest way to make sure she was okay was to check her Facebook profile. Thankfully, she was just barely affected by the disaster. Another close friend of mine has family in the country, and although I tried to call and text her over the weekend, she did not respond. I'm sure she received many messages from concerned friends and was overwhelmed. Today, I saw a reassuring status update that included a thank you to all her friends.

How did you and your friends use Facebook to discuss what happened in Japan?

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