Twitter credited with breaking, spreading news of Bin Laden’s death

On Sunday night, news of Osama bin Laden’s death on Twitter went from rumor, to fact, to discussion, all before the general newsmedia confirmed it, and before U.S. President Barack Obama made the official announcement.

First confirmation on the microblogging site came from Keith Urbhan, former chief of staff for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Business Insider noted.

But word of what was happening hit Twitter live from Abbottabad, as Sohaib Athar, a 33-year-old IT consultant, live tweeted the raid on Bin Laden’s mansion without even realising it. Since Athar first tweeted that a helicopter was hovering above the city at 1 a.m. local time yesterday, he has tweeted about realising he had unknowingly live tweeted the raid, tweeted about being contacted by top news organisations around the world, and now has more than 73,000 followers on Twitter.

 By the time Obama finished his speech, Twitter reported that it had reached more than 4,000 tweets per second at the beginning and end of the speech.

Tonight, some television networks are expanding their newscasts from half an hour to a full hour, while radio outlets are also airing special programmes. Newsmagazines are working on special issues, and newspapers expanded their print runs today, and are planning special sections for tomorrow, according to AdAge.

Newsmedia outlets will continue covering the story across media platforms, but for now, the spotlight is on Twitter, which is being credited for breaking the news first, and then spreading the information at lightening speed around the globe.

“Twitter has once again proven its worth,” wrote Nicholas Jackson for The Atlantic. “It might not win wars or spark revolutions – that’s still being debated – but its value is clear to those of us who watched their feeds fill with news and notes over the past hour. Newspapers might be dead or dying, but traditional ink-on-paper reporters were able to share this story much faster than cable news outlets by adapting to this technology.”

Graph: Twitter’s flickr photostream

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