Pro Bono Publico: The Internet Offers Aid and Comfort

In the wake of the most horrific sneak attack against America, the Internet has proved itself one of our most important emergency communications media — and, importantly, a democratic medium through which individuals, corporations, relief organizations, and the government can all reach out in real time to offer aid and comfort to fellow Americans.

With telephone communications out or overwhelmed following the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, countless millions of Americans and people around the globe turned to the World Wide Web to receive news reports, post messages on Web sites, sign on to instant chats and threads, and send email to contact loved ones in a time of crisis.

The Internet proved to be a resilient and pervasive medium to help mobilize support and provide up-to-the-minute information crucial to the rescue and aid efforts, to seek information about the missing and those who had perished, and to help us begin to grasp the horrific sequence of events that had just transpired.

While Web sites of major news organizations were quickly overwhelmed, search engines such as Google and others cached pages to ease the load on news media servers and quickly added news and support-organization links to their home pages. The Yahoo home page encouraged visitors to contribute via secure transactional links to the Red Cross, the New York Blood Center, and other relief groups.

Individuals and major corporations turned to the Web as a means of offering aid and comfort to their extended families and to connected Americans. People like Bill Shun set up personal Web sites for friends and family to check in and verify each other’s well being.

Many Web sites, too numerous to chronicle, have joined the effort. The following list offers a sampling:

  • Industry publications such as Animation Magazine reached out to their communities to offer support and provided news of special programs, such as Barnes & Nobles Storytimes, to help families understand and deal with the traumatic events.
  • Companies such as i7 Interactive turned to Web site publishers, asking them to utilize their existing traffic to direct visitors to the Red Cross or Helping.org Web sites. Goto.com pulled down all banners and replaced them with the i7 Red Cross banners, accounting for millions of impressions for Helping.org.
  • Blogger set up a special search page to list all recent postings about the tragedy and carry eyewitness accounts.
  • Amazon.com initially gave up most of its home page to display a plea for donations from the Red Cross and is tallying the money collected.
  • Wal-Mart announced plans to donate more than $1 million to relief efforts and posted information about Red Cross donations.
  • Target initially replaced its home page with a splash page that encouraged others to give money and blood by posting the logos of its subsidiaries with relief-effort contact information.

Through all the calamity and pain, the Internet has come of age, proving itself to be a powerful new medium for pro bono publico — delivering timely information, extending our sense of community, reaching out to offer aid and comfort, and maintaining crucial lines of communication in times of national crisis.

Note: For more on the impact of the September 11 attack, check the special section of internet.com’s E-Commerce/Marketing Channel, The Trade Center Disaster: Industry Response.

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