Things Twitter didn’t do with Osama bin Laden’s death…

There are a number of things that are being credited to this thing called Twitter, but before it becomes the stuff of powerpoint presentations of #smegs around the world and snake oil sales men (note: terms are interchangeable), a few things need to be set straight.

Firstly, Twitter didn’t break the news. The news was broken, old fashioned style via a leak. A leak I am sure the Whitehouse was not uncomfortable with. Given how much they had kept everything under wraps down to the amazing poker faced Obama at the Correspondents Dinner, this leak was not without some level of purpose. The leak ensured that there was audience for the announcement. In the old days, Keith Urbahn would have phoned a reporter at a local radio station, these days he just put it on twitter.

“So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn” at 10:24EST.

Did Twitter break the story, no, Keith did. Please remember that when you are prepping those powerpoints. I’d also say that Twitter was not the first place that Keith spread the news to either.

Of course, once this happened, the “cat” was out of the bag, (or to coin a really bad turn of phrase ) the Osama was in the bag. Did CNN, NYT, ABC etc tell this, no, they did old fashioned journalism.They checked for sources, rechecked, cross checked etc.

I for example, didn’t rt that original link, why because I wanted “proof”, proof in the form of more than one source that can be verified. I know, showing my age, but hey.

Like all good stories, there was a build up. The tension, what was his “secret” press conf about that traditional media ( well in the form of websites ) had hinted about 30 minutes beforehand. Why was it taking so long for Obama to deliver the press conference, given that he is usually so punctual.

Twitter did help kill the time. The jokes were funny. Well they were the first time. Yet each joke was a variation on the iphone,foursquare, twitter, even Playstation hack location. Nothing original, all been done before. The sad thing is these jokes have lasted longer than the time it took to bury Osama, but should have been buried at sea with him.

Finally, traditional media had enough proof. Obama wasn’t on air yet, but the story had been confirmed. Did Twitter break this story,no, why because Twitter doesn’t generate content, it distributes content. NYT, ABC, CNN etc had enough evidence to pass the burden of proof.

The story was told, and then something interesting came out. Turns out the story had already been told. When Athar (@ReallyVirtual) tweeted the noise of helicopters, explosions et al near his home in Abbotabad it was unusual for the location. Very quickly though it would turn out to be a claim to “internet fame” (note: internet fame is measure in internet years, which is around 2 days ).

So of course Twitter jumps on the story, that the story was on Twitter. Funny thing was that no one talked about his tweets a few hours before hand. Why, because it wasn’t a big story then. Once traditional media and a president made an announcement it became a story. See, no Twitter, just a lot of luck.

People are now saying, that because he live tweeted the raid, the future for covert ops like this are in danger. A couple of points. Osama didn’t use twitter, remember the lack of phones in the compound attracted US interest. Secondly, possibly more importantly, by the time that the event was being “live tweeted”, the team of Navy Seals with weapons firing jumping out of low flying helicopters was most probably a bit of a give away to the bad guys as it were.

Now I am a big a fan of Twitter as everyone else, but it distributed the message, it didn’t create the message. Had I been watching ABCnews24 or even more old school listening to the radio I would have still heard the story, just 15 or so minutes later.

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment