We’ve talked a lot about social media use in disasters, but the targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden is one of the first global news stories after social media has gained its prominence in sharing news. So it is interesting to watch its various uses. It is also interesting to see that the major news stories of some of the mainstream news media is about how social media was used to first announce the death (apparently an early tweet from Keith Urbahn who talked to a well-placed news producer. His tweet, I’m guessing was pretty speculative but turned out correct). Here is the NYT take on it, and the LA Times–both focusing a lot of coverage on how social media is being used as part of this story.
Actually, it appears the first word of the event came from tweets from a Pakistani IT consultant who lived near the Bin Laden compound. He tweeted about helicopters overhead, a big bang and gunfire. This confirms something we have been talking about for some time. As much as President Obama would have liked and certainly tried to control the news, eyewitnesses using social media will most certainly be first. It is virtually impossible when an event is visible at all to the public, even in Abottabad, Pakistan, to control the news. And the mainstream news media scrambles to keep up, report what is on the Internet and still try to play by the info control rules that the “official sources,” in this case the White House are trying to enforce. It was certainly interesting watching that play out on NBC, CNN and FOX last night.
As I write this the focus is on American’s celebration. But what I wonder about is the reaction of the rest of the world, particularly the Arab and Muslim world. A quick review shows a fairly muted response, some suspicion of whether the claims of his death are true, and some celebration in the Arab world.
The most profound meaning of the Internet as a means of enhancing communication around the globe is the facilitation of the global village. This event can show the global village at work as we can listen in on and participate in conversations with others whose views are very different from our own. It’s my hope that we use this important technology to increase our understanding of each other and that mutual trust and respect increases with this unprecedented communication capability. Not everyone in a small town is expected to agree or get along all the time. But most everyone senses when living in a close-knit community, that overall is better if we follow the advice that as far as it is possible with us, to live at peace with all.