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Monday March 14, 2011 4:34 am

Tech companies accepting donations for Japan quake relief


Posted by Andru Edwards - Categories: Google, Internet, Misc. Tech


As the devastating images of the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan come in via cable news, newspapers, blogs, and homemade videos, tech giants like Google, Apple, Twitter, and more are donating funds and using the power of tech to help those in need.

In the wake of the earthquake, Google set up its Person Finder Web site to help people locate the missing or post data on those who had been found. In a Saturday blog post, Google Japan's Ken Miura said his team started working on Google's Crisis Response page within minutes of the quake.

Miura was in Tokyo, about 250 miles away from where the first quake hit, but the Google Japan office – located on the 26th floor – "started shaking slowly," he wrote.

"Although alerts from the building urged us to evacuate via the emergency stairs, I couldn't help but stay and search for information about the earthquake's epicenter and scale," he wrote. Miura said he was a university student when the Kobe earthquake hit 16 years ago and he recalled "the immediate desire for information."

With that in mind, the team launched Person Finder in Japan within an hour of the earthquake, pulled together public information from local governments about affected areas, and posted tsunami warnings on the Google homepage.

Miura also said Google will donate $250,000 to Japanese relief agencies.


Google-owned video site YouTube, meanwhile, has pulled together homemade videos of the earthquake as it happened for its Citizen Tube site.

"For raw, eyewitness videos of the earthquake/tsunami uploaded by people in Japan, visit http://youtube.com/citizentube," YouTube tweeted on Friday.

The videos show supermarket workers trying in vain to stop items from crashing to the floor, average citizens taking cover in their homes as photos fall from the walls and TVs topple, and travelers at Sentai Airport watching in horror as tsunami waters crash through a nearby parking lot and sweep cars away in seconds (below).

Twitter, meanwhile, has posted tips and information about resources on its Twitter Japan blog.

"In it you can find which hashtags people are using to communicate about the earthquake, learn about a new section of our mobile website (available for users in Japan) that has the latest information about the earthquake, and discover useful message boards and other sites," Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner wrote in a separate post. "We'll be updating this blog post as we discover more tools and useful information."

The micro-blogging site's Hope 140 blog also has a list of accounts to follow for up-to-date information about the response effort.

Many companies are pointing people to the Red Cross for donations. The organization is accepting donations on its Web site and mobile users can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Apple is also allowing users to donate to the Red Cross using their iTunes accounts. Cupertino said 100 percent of donations will go to the Red Cross; users can donate [iTunes link] between $5 and $200 to the effort.

Microsoft, meanwhile, got some backlash when it tied its donations to re-tweets. "How you can #SupportJapan - http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K," the company tweeted on Saturday.

When some criticized the effort as self-serving and insensitive, Microsoft apologized. "We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K," the company tweeted.

For more, see how attendees at SXSW are also doing their part.

This article, written by Chloe Albanesius, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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