S.F. almost outwits Olympic torch Twitterati

In a switcheroo that threw off hundreds of protesters and put Twitter and text-message alert systems to the test, city officials decided to take the Olympic torch relay on a far different route than was planned.

Tibetan demonstrator
A Tibetan demonstrator passes a supporter of the China Olympics at the planned starting point of the torch relay in San Francisco Wednesday. Hanna Sistek/CNET News.com

SAN FRANCISCO--In a switcheroo that threw off hundreds of protesters and put Twitter and text-message alert systems to the test, city officials here decided to take the Olympic torch relay on a far different route Wednesday than had been previously announced.

The relay had been highly anticipated, largely because of security concerns related to protesters who-- fueled by Web campaigns --came out in droves to oppose the Chinese government's plans to carry the torch through Tibet, or more generally, the government's overall human rights record.

As crowds of spectators and protesters awaited the torch along the city's Embarcadero and at the foot of the Market Street thoroughfare, the relay took off by bus in the opposite direction to Van Ness Avenue and then into the Marina District in the north part of the city, according to news reports. That set off a storm of Twitters--some of which were pasted onto this page at SFist--and a constant stream of text messages as people tried to figure out what was happening and which direction to head.

Chasing the torch through S.F.:
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"We are reorganizing the protest, sending text messages with minute-by-minute updates on where the torches are," said a member of protest organizer SF Team Tibet. "People are using their cell phones, BlackBerrys, and PDAs. We are also updating media though our phones, sending pictures."

The SF Team Tibet member added: "It would be really, really hard if we didn't have this. Can you imagine if the protesters in Lhasa had this technology? Witnesses could just send things in."

Of course, such forms of instant communication are only so reliable--I'm on an sms feed from SF Team Tibet and am still trying to sort out what's accurate and what's just rumor. It seems the planned closing ceremony was canceled and the torch is now enroute to the airport. (Followers are encouraged.)

CNET News.com's Hanna Sistek contributed to this report.

twitter note
A screenshot of a Twitter sent by SF Team Tibet.

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About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.

 

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