Social media and the fall of Osama Bin Laden
The world has been abuzz over the last few days with the news of the demise of Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden. Born in Saudi Arabia into a wealthy family Bin Laden has over the course of the last fifteen years either taken credit for or been associated with a string of terrorist attacks, particularly on foreign based US utilities, federal facilities and of course the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.
In the early hours of May 2nd a team of US Navy special forces raided a mansion in the small Pakistani city of Abbottabad, located in the north east of the country around 100km from the Afghan border. During a fire fight with insurgent forces it is reported that Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed and after recovering his body the corpse was buried at sea by US naval officials from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
Although controversy and conspiracy continue to cloud the exact details of the operation, code named ‘Neptune Spear’, one of the most intriguing insights to arise from the event was however not the incident itself, but the medium through which the news was broken to an unsuspecting world.
Hours before President Barak Obama’s now famous address, the raid on Bin Laden’s $250,000 mansion had been unwittingly ‘liveblogged’ by an Abbottabad resident. Sohaib Athar (Twitter username @ReallyVirtual) roused by the unusual noise of a helicopter flying over head at 1am Pakistani Standard Time originally issued one seemingly commonplace tweet, observing that, ‘Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).’
The tweets which continued on for several hours catalogued a series of explosions and supposition that a helicopter had been shot down. After reporting that apparently one person had been killed in a helicopter crash Mr Athar who studied for an MBA at the University of Central Lancashire further in a tweet that, ‘I think the helicopter crash in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the President Obama breaking news address are connected.’
By now of course this was only one of a fury of microblogs being sent all across the globe in what was later revealed to be the highest sustained rate of tweeting in the service’s history which over a three and a half hour period preceding and following President Obama’s address averaged at over 3,000 tweets per second. The news itself was actually revealed by former chief of staff to Donald Rumsfeld, Keith Urbahn who a further hour before the President’s official statement tweeted that, ‘So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.’
Although many questions still remain over the validity of Twitter as a journalistic or even commercial resource the power of live-feed news it seems is undeniable and the impact of having access to an exclusive insight can be tremendous, just ask Sohaib Athar whose Twitter followers jumped from a respectable 751 on April 30th to 101,526 two days later! Although this was of course a unique scenario it does demonstrate the growing influence of live-feed news and in an age where presidential candidates are announced over Facebook and Royal engagements revealed in a Tweet the growing impact of social media even, or perhaps especially, upon the most official and governmentally sensitive aspects of our culture is undeniable.Tweet