Posted by: madisonbalk | May 3, 2011

The Power of Twitter

Everyone has different means of how they receive news. For some it may be the newspaper, and for others it may be television. With the rapid growth of social media, however, many people are beginning to receive news via Twitter and Facebook. Although this may seem like an insignificant and unprofessional means to gather new information, Twitter seems to be the up-and-coming method to send newsworthy information to the world.

In light of America’s most recent “win”, Twitter was the main source in spreading the word about Osama Bin Laden’s death. With over 3,400 tweets PER SECOND for an hour and a half after his death, #OsamaBinLaden holds the record for the highest number of Twitter mentions. For the majority of my friends, Twitter was the first place that they heard about this incredible news.

This does bring up a very important point, however, that because Twitter is so quick and easily trending, a lot of inaccuracies were made. Immediately after the news broke out on television, Twitter blew up. Different accusations were made as to how Osama died, where he died, and who killed him. Because so many people wanted to be the “first” person to declare the news, inaccurate information was revealed.

How reliable is twitter as a news source? Can we completely rely on it with confidence?


  1. I think the first time that I realized the immense political power that Twitter has was back in January and February as the revolution in Egypt gathered momentum. The book “Tweets from Tahrir” is a good example of a recent publication that incorporates the social media strategies that helped fuel the citizens in Tahrir square against Mubarak and his regime. It’s amazing that activists were able to report breaking news as well as organize demonstrations via a social, global site. Tweeters ranged from activists to “citizen journalists” to American students studying abroad, but all constituents had to comply to the 140 character limit that Twitter’s microblogging infrastructure mandates. These short update bursts helped fuel a revolution and I don’t think that society stopped and reflected on the methods of communication until after the political upheaval seemed to level out. How could a social media site support a human rights cause before any major news source? The history of politics and world events are being written by actual participants at the exact time of change.

    Regarding Osama bin Laden, Twitter served as the same kind of platform for news. Because we have seen how successful news can be transmitted quickly, we want it to be like that all the time. I think Twitter is a good new source, but the trade-off for timeliness might have to be accuracy.

  2. I think this is a really interesting topic too! The first thing that comes to mind is when Michael Jackson died. I first heard the news from a friend. It was years before I had a twitter application on my phone, so I couldn’t confirm it immediately. News that big is definitely not something you believe right away, no matter what the source. So, I went straight home to check Twitter. and there it was. A huge number of RIP MJ tweets. Oddly enough, Farrah Fawcett was also trending. That’s how I found out about her death too. Anyway, my point is that Twitter trends definitely get me wondering, but just like any news source, I don’t trust it without double checking. I think that Twitter is a great way to get inside information, but again, it’s just not smart to trust everything you read!
    In regards to Osama Bin Laden, twitter was definitely an interesting way to find out more information. The man who tweeted about the raid didn’t even know he would get any attention for it. He was just a civilian tweeting about how loud the explosions were. In fact, he was quite annoyed with the helicopters, and just wanted to swat them away. If you’re interested, here is his twitter handle: @ReallyVirtual

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