Home > social media > Twitter Knew Bin Laden Was Dead Before CNN: How the News Was Broken

Twitter Knew Bin Laden Was Dead Before CNN: How the News Was Broken

This past Sunday night, 56.5 million Americans stayed up until 11:35 p.m. EST to watch US President Barack Obama’s 9 minute speech confirming the death of Osama Bin Laden, making it the most watched presidential address in nearly a decade. But President Obama’s speech wasn’t the beginning or the end of the explosion of news and social media reporting on the death of Bin Laden. The reporting of the attack on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan actually began as it was occurring.

“Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).”

“A huge window shaking bang her in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S”

“The abbottabad helicopter/UFO was shot down near the Bilal Town area, and there’s report of a flash. People saying it could be a drone.”

These are some selections from Sohaib Athar’s Twitter, where he actually liveblogged the raid on Bin Laden’s compound without knowing it. It wasn’t until after the news leaked out late Sunday evening that anyone knew for sure what had happened.

Confirmation came at 10:25 p.m. EST, just 5 minutes before President Obama was scheduled to address the nation when Donald Rumsfeld’s Chief-of-Staff tweeted information he’d received from a reputable source saying, “they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn”. The 10:30 slot came and went with no word from the President, but the delay only served to boost the hype.

Between 10:30 p.m. EST and 11:30 p.m. EST, Google reported a ONE MILLION percent increase in searches containing the keywords “Bin Laden”. Beginning at 10:45 p.m. EST and running long after the President’s announcement until 2:20 a.m. EST, Twitter logged a record breaking 3,000 status updates PER SECOND.

Google Trends, a tracker which reports keywords with the largest search volume, updates every hour.  By Monday morning, all 20 of the “hottest” searches were, in one way or another, related to Osama Bin Laden’s death and the news sources reporting it.

Credit: Google Trends

Less than 24 hours after President Obama made his announcement, Google Maps had located Osama’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on their maps, and more than one thousand comments began to rush in.

Credit: ibtimes.com

Credit: ibtimes.com

Even now, four days after the announcement, there are rumors that a tape containing Osama Bin Laden’s latest message, recorded before his death, is working its way through the Al-Qaeda media network. We can’t know when this information will surface for the rest of the world to see, but there is little doubt as to whether things are still going on behind the scenes. There is still a lot we don’t know, but if news continues to break as quickly as it did with news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, we might not have to wait long to find out.