Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) is a unique platform to spread the word about celebrities, social unrest, economy, natural disasters. You will be surprised to know that the fastest earthquake alerts don’t come from the U.S. Geological Survey’s underground sensors, but from Twitter. A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed that, when there is an earthquake, reports are on the microblogging site in less than a minute.

Twitter has a 10% error rate

In contrast, traditional seismometers that monitor ground motion usually take 2-20 minutes to precisely locate and judge the size of an earthquake. Researchers were able to draw comparisons by analyzing tweets that contained the word “earthquake.” The USGS National Earthquake Information Center director Paul Earle said that Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) gives first indication of a widely felt event. Earle presented his research findings at the annual meeting of Seismological Society of America in Anchorage, Alaska.

On an average, the U.S. Geological Survey’s underground sensors have detected 19 earthquakes per week over the last 10 months. About 50% of them were detected in less than 60 seconds, and 90% were detected in just 2 minutes. Among them, the strongest earthquake had a magnitude of 8.2, while the weakest one was 1.4. U.S. Geological Survey has set up a special Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR)[email protected] to monitor the service and alert people.

Besides the seismically derived parameters, the alerts also consider the frequency of tweets in a specific region containing the word “earthquake” or its equivalent in multiple languages. But Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) has a 10% error rate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. So, it can’t replace the official seismic instruments. But the San Francisco-based company won’t give up. Twitter is working with Stanford University to build a tool that will monitor social networks to collect details of earthquakes.

Tracking the earthquake-related conversations on Twitter

Earthquake-related conversations on Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) ranged from just 600 tweets per minute after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Java to over 10,000 tweets per minute following the disastrous Tohoku earthquake in Japan in 2011. The company said that sometimes tweets can travel as fast as an earthquake.

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Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) shares were down 0.31% to $32.67 at 11:29 AM EDT on Friday.