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Text donations raise millions for earthquake relief

One look at the world of social media in the wake of Haiti's earthquake disaster shows how fast time passes in cyberspace.

In the early aftermath of the earthquake, platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook exploded with pleas for information, messages from survivors and photos of the devastation in hard-hit areas such as Port-au-Prince.

But while cable TV channels such as CNN and MSNBC were still documenting the extent of death and destruction on Thursday, the online world had already moved on to marshaling donations and communicating aid efforts. Along the way, they set fundraising records and built new lines of information.

The Facebook fan page operated by Doctors Without Borders, boasting more than 86,000 followers, filled with information on the group's efforts and strategies for marshaling donations. It featured everything from the code for donation buttons that users could place on their own sites to video of the various relief efforts headed to Haiti.

Celebrities used their online brands to leverage help from fans as well. Best-known among them was Haitian-American producer/rapper/singer Wyclef Jean, who encouraged his 1.4 million Twitter followers to text YELE to 501501, billing their phones a $5 donation for his Yele Haiti organization. According to ABC News, he raised more than $1 million in just one day, a worldwide record.

Some activists have criticized this use of online resources as "slacktivism" — a way for overly connected couch potatoes to shift the money they might spend on a Starbucks latte to a charitable cause with no sweat required. But in the case of Haiti relief, such efforts allowed charities to marshal much-needed funds quickly.

News organizations even got into the act, with CNN altering its online citizen journalism space iReport to create an online destination for those seeking information on relatives and friends in the country. Located at CCN.com/haitimissing, the site allows visitors to upload photos and search by name, with a few links to other online sources, including the Facebook page for the Earthquake Haiti group.

Tampabay.com, the St. Petersburg Times site, featured a link to Twitter's list of posts found under the "Help Haiti" search term. And the New York Times organized its own list of Haiti's top Twitter feeds, found at twitter.com/nytimes/haiti-earthquake.

The online social media guide Mashable.com also offered a wealth of compelling dispatches, from an ongoing tally of how much money the American Red Cross raised through its own text message donation campaign — $4 million by midday Thursday — to reports on how to avoid getting scammed by online charlatans.

Clooney to host MTV telethon: MTV and George Clooney will team to present a telethon on Jan. 22 to rally support and raise money for the stricken country, MTV announced Thursday.

Though guests have yet to be invited, the plan is for the Oscar-winning actor to appear in a bicoastal telethon and fundraiser on all MTV Networks channels. All proceeds will go toward relief efforts in Haiti.

Text donations raise millions for earthquake relief 01/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 10:31pm]
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