Bin Laden's death hit the Internet and keeps on blazing

McClatchy NewspapersMay 5, 2011 

WASHINGTON — In some ways it's the perfect Twitter story.

Arguably the top breaking news event of the last 10 years, the death of Osama bin Laden is still reverberating through the vast Internet ether that gives each of us access to global conversations.

Consider Twitter, where snippets of information are delivered 140 characters at a time. Normally it's merely ablaze when breaking news happens. This time was different.

@LouderCMarch: Years from now when people ask where we were when bin laden died - we're all going to say we were on twitter. #binladendead

From 10:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Sunday night, Twitter reported there was an average of 3,440 tweets per second about bin Laden's death. That means that in just under two-hours, there were nearly 25 million tweets from people all over the world about the killing in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Four days after the announcement Twitter is still buzzing with more than a tweet per second about bin Laden. At first the web was full of the news of bin Laden's killing. As the days passed, jokes surfaced as the dust settled and the web world awaited photos.

@jimmyfallon: Got Bin Laden AND interrupted Celebrity Apprentice? Win for Obama all around.

During a broader time period — 10:45 p.m. Sunday to 2:20 a.m. Monday — there was an average of 3,000 tweets per second. Both of these time periods set Twitter records for the highest sustained rate of tweets ever.

@OMyFamily: Dude. Obama. Twitter is stealing your thunder. Hurry up.

Even though the news of bin Laden's death broke and was confirmed on Twitter before President Barack Obama uttered a word, Twitter cannot (yet) be relied upon as a sole news source.

@mommyboots:

Obama: "Osama Bin Laden is dead."

Twitter: "Yeah. We know."

At 11 p.m. Sunday, bin Laden's death tweets hit a peak with 5,106 tweets per second, but that number didn't break a record. Events like the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the Super Bowl had higher peaks than bin Laden's news, but they didn't last as long. The winning event for the most tweets at the same time was New Year's Eve in Japan with nearly 7,000 tweets per second.

The number of tweets, as one might expect, started to escalate once ABC, NBC and CBS reported on the air that, in fact, bin Laden was dead.

Matt Rosoff said it best in his post on BusinessInsider.com, "So it's fair to say that Twitter still reflects the news. It doesn't drive the news - yet."

On Facebook scores of people, pages and groups popped up, generating constantly increasing activity. One page entitled "Osama Bin Laden is DEAD" had 467,286 "Likes" and was gaining approximately 200 "Likes" every 10 minutes, even days after the news broke.

Facebook also had debate threads about the rejoicing that took place across the country, notably in front of the White House. Some say they were disturbed by America's reaction, while others say it was powerful to see such emotional reactions.

Lisa Dolan, who lost her husband Navy Capt. Bob Dolan at the Pentagon in the 2001 attacks, posted this on her Facebook page: "One less evil man in this world; a very good thing. However, why does everyone think the death of Bin Laden brings justice to the 9/11 families!"

Up until this point, the White House Flickr account, which contains photos of Obama and others in government, averaged 100,000 views daily. Over the past few days the account saw 2.5 and 3.6 million views.

The photo of the president and his team in Situation Room watching an update on the bin Laden mission was posted to the White House Flickr account a day after bin Laden's death statement. The photo was live at 10 a.m. and according to Flickr statistics, by 3:30 p.m. it had 390,000 views and by 11 a.m. the next day it had 1.4 million views.

On a national level, Huffington Post used the bin Laden news as opportunity to merge the use of its Patch sites with HuffPo's broader coverage of the country. Patch's spider web of websites in towns across the nation provides community news and information to its members.

David Hirschman, co-founder of Street Fight — a website for very local news, deals and services primarily in the tech and media industry — liked what Huffington Post and Patch did.

"It perhaps showed how a scaled network of hyperlocals can mimic an old-fashioned wire service in the midst of major news stories, with reports from all over feeding the mother ship," Hirschman said.

The new-age wire service is an expansive network of people, in their communities, sharing and conversing about the how the events of the world affect them.

@VINNYGUADAGNINO: I don't know what is more historic, the fact that Osama is dead or the fact that our first reaction is to talk about it on Twitter.

ON THE WEB

White House Flickr

Osama is DEAD, Facebook

Street Fight

Business Insider, Most Interesting Tweets About Osama Bin Laden's Death

New Haven Register listing of top Osama tweets

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