Intended and Unintended Consequences of Social Media in Humanitarian Operations

Mohammad Moshtari*, Paulo Goncalves, Amin Maghsoudi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review


This study investigates the intended and unintended consequences of the use of social media to support humanitarian operations. Adopting a theory-building research approach, it develops an in depth case study of the humanitarian response to the 2017 Kermanshah Earthquake. It uses causal loop diagraming (CLD) to identify and explain the relationships between social media risks and operational implications in a humanitarian setting. The study reveals multiple benefits associated with the use of social media to support humanitarian operations (e.g., needs assessment, mobilizing funds and volunteers, communicating within and among actors, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian operations). However, the use of social media also carries risks, which have detrimental effects on the humanitarian response. The unverified information, short expected time to supply, and perceived ease of humanitarian operations originating from social media destabilize disaster response efforts by intensifying the time pressure on humanitarian actors, eroding public trust in their capability, and altering individuals’ donation behavior. These behaviors result in a number of unintended consequences, some directly affecting the humanitarian response (e.g., diminished operational performance, increased coordination tension, and competition among actors), and others indirectly affecting beneficiaries through cascading effects (e.g., the emergence of diseases, and changing lifestyles). This study responds to recent calls to shed light on the risks of using social media in operations and supply chain management and strategies to address such risks within a humanitarian setting. The research formulates propositions, and offers managerial implications for humanitarian practitioners and policy makers."
Original languageEnglish
ProceedingAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)13386
Publication statusPublished - 29.07.2020
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
EventAnnual Meeting of the Academy of Management: Broadening our Sight - Virtual
Duration: 07.08.202011.08.2020
Conference number: 80


  • 512 Business and Management

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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