Twitter hits new record for tweets as it has its CNN moment with death of bin Laden
The moment when the news broke on Twitter, and was then confirmed by a political aide before President Obama, made his address, is being described as Twitter’s CNN moment. A true coming of age for the microblogging service.
Twitter hit a high of 5,106 tweets per second with and an average of 3,440 tweets per second from 10:45 to 12:30pm as this graphic below shows.
While the peak is higher than the US centric Super Bowl 2011, which hit 4,064 tweets per second, it is lower than New Year’s Eve in Japan, which hit 6,939 per second, the average is a new record.
The peak of 5,106 tweets per second came as President Obama finished his speech on death of the terrorist leader.
Interesting to note that the activity really hit a sustained tweeting frenzy as the story began to unfold on the TV news networks. So while news breaks on Twitter it is then still being led by traditional TV media, which runs in parallel to social networks and bloggers who begin to share thousands of links, pictures and comments.
Maybe the most remarkable part of the story from a media angle is the way that IT consultant, Sohaib Athar, living in Abbottabad, unknowingly live tweeted details of the special forces assault on bin Laden’s hideout.
Athar wrote that a helicopter was hovering overhead shortly before the assault began and said that it might not be Pakistani. Good call.
Athar’s first posting came at around 1am local time (9pm BST) as he tweeted: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” Then came the sound of an explosion, which is said to have been US forces destroying their damaged helicopter.
He then continued to tweet as US Navy Seals closed in and killed bin Laden. He later tweeted “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”.
As Athar tweeted it became apparent what was happening. He pulled information from friends in the local area who were also online marking an extraordinary day for Twitter as significant as CNN in the first Gulf War.
This led several to remark that “Twitter just had its CNN moment” as millions found out about the death of the world’s most wanted man first via a social network as a generation before had learnt that the battle to liberate Kuwait had begun via cable news.
Confirmation of bin Laden’s death finally came also via Twitter from even before Obama confirmed he had been killed. It came via Keith Urbahn, who is chief of staff to former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who tweeted: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden.”
Two men, two tweets, and one giant story. After that it was over to traditional media, but Twitter and social media had done its job.