Yesterday the world learned that the most wanted man in history had finally met his end at the hands of United States Special Forces carrying out a precision operation. The announcement was made by President Obama that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. However, the first whisperings of what was going on as it happened were actually on Twitter.
Obviously those soldiers on the ground and the high commanders watching events unfold via video link in The Pentagon were savvy to what was going on, but an IT consultant, living in Abbottabad, unknowingly tweeted details of the US-led operation as it happened.
Sohaib Athar told that a helicopter was hovering overhead shortly before the assault began and also said that he though it might not be a Pakistani aircraft. Later tweets described the sound of “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad” and his sense of worry that this could be “the start of something nasty”.
Moving away from the whole 9/11, Bin Laden, targeted kill story – which is frankly a macabre narrative that was never going to have a happy ending – we are shown that the power of Twitter as a communication tool is not to be underestimated.
The first glimpse that many people had of the site’s potential was in 2009 when a US Airways plane made an emergency landing on New York’s Hudson River. The first images to emerge were tweeted by a ferry passenger moments after the plane came down, and well before any news crews were on the scene.
With the world literally at everyday citizens’ fingertips, mobile devices are becoming the new field reporters and film crews. The obvious exception being that you don’t need to be employed by a news network to be able to share your message with the world.