A wild night of online speculation and celebration kicked off around 10:30 pm with a tweet from Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for Donald Rumsfeld.
“So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”
Word of this story began to bounce around Twitter and was confirmed by reporting from CNN and CBS. Once it became clear that Obama was going to give a formal speech the online communities the chatter accelerated, topping out at 4,000 tweets per second.
A Facebook page called Osama Bin Laden is Dead became the central repository for comment on the social network, quickly claiming more than 275,000 likes and moving towards 300,000 early this morning. Wall posts are scrolling by in a continuous stream: a mix of tributes to America, vitriol at Osama and purported images of his dead body.
Just after midnight The Atlantic published a Google Map with an entry for the compound where Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed. While that story quickly racked up more tha 4,000 likes on Facebook, numerous commenters pointed out that there was little way to confirm its accuracy and conflicting accounts in the media over the location.
Turns out the actual attack was caught live on Twitter by a Pakistani IT consultant taking, or trying to take, a vacation in Abbottabad. Crucial details, such as the fact that one of the two helicopters crashed, were live on his stream hours before anyone stateside was even thinking about Osama Bin Laden.