Which outlet first broke news of Osama bin Laden’s demise?

Answer: none of them. The initial report of bin Laden’s death was reportedly splashed around the world in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Social media users on Twitter and Facebook consistently are beating traditional media to the punch in reporting breaking news. In this case, it was the death of Osama bin Laden, tweeted in real time to the rest of the world.

Tweeting breaking news as it happens is becoming a routine occurrence, and it’s got the be driving the cable news channels, network news operations and print media crazy.

Twitter user Keith Urbahn, current chief of staff to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has been credited for first breaking the news on Twitter that bin Laden had been killed.

Long before the major news operations reported it, Urbahn tweeted, “I am told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn.”

In a published report at the Los Angeles Times, Urbahn’s tweets beat by minutes leaks by anonymous sources at both the Pentagon and the White House to news outlets that the U.S. had killed bin Laden.

In an interview with the online news blog The Daily Caller, Urbahn said, “Obviously the days of three networks and an evening newspaper managing information are over.”

However, Urbahn later backed down, tweeting, “My source was a connected network TV news producer. Stories about ‘the death of MSM’ because of my ‘first’ tweet are greatly exaggerated.”

And later: “As much as I believe in rise of ‘citizen journalism,’ blogs, Twitter, etc., supplanting traditional media, my tweet isn’t great evidence of it.”

And in a twist of irony, bin Laden’s neighbors unwittingly tweeted about the commotion going on in his neighborhood.

Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant who tweets as @ReallyVirtual, and Mohsin Shah, who tweets as @m0hcin, didn’t even realize they were live tweeting about the U.S. raid, tweeting about abnormal helicopter activity, including a helicopter crash. Read their tweet thread. It’s fascinating.

I no longer rely entirely on Fox News or other outlets to get breaking news. When I want to know what’s happening, I go to the river of tweets flowing from all over the world across my computer or smart phone screen. If I’m seeking specific info, I plug in a search word to filter out everything else and get the news I want, instantly. And then I turn to the traditional media for more in-depth info as they fill in the details.

Secret tweets

Even the U.S. Secret Service now has its own official Twitter account, launched last week to promote its visibility and investigative work.

Within days of launching, it already had 500 followers. Its inaugural tweet was slated to be sent on Monday, May 9. The agency joins several other federal agencies already using social media like Twitter and Facebook.

News of Osama bin Laden’s death set a Twitter record for the “highest sustained rate of Tweets ever.” According to Twitter, from 10:45 p.m. – 2:20 a.m. ET, there was an average of 3,000 Tweets per second.

The biggest traffic spike that Sunday night occurred during President Obama’s announcement.

“At 11 p.m. ET, there were 5,106 Tweets per second,” Twitter said. “At 11:45p.m. ET, when President Obama finished his remarks, there were 5,008 TPS.”

The March 11 strike of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan brought in more tweets per second, surpassing 5,000 tweets-per-second five times that day, with a high of 5,530 tweets-per-second. The record for tweets per second was made during most the recent New Year’s Eve, when users in Japan sent 6,939 Tweets per second.

Here’s how it looked as the report unfolded on the Internet. New York company Social Flow plotted and analyzed 15 million tweets, showing the history of how tweets about bin Laden exploded into the Twitterverse:

“Within a minute, more than 80 people had already reposted the message,” the company wrote on its blog. “Within two minutes, over 300 reactions to the original post were spreading through the network.”

OBL’s death: opportunity for scammers, spammers

Last week U.S. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts had to issue a mea-culpa when he realized that the photo he had been touting as a dead Osama was fake. But the senator was not the only one duped. The Los Angeles Times reported that the death of bin Laden gave scammers and spammers a great opportunity to pass off fake photos with malicious links.

“The reported death of Osama Bin Laden is just too good a lure for cybercriminals and scammers to pass up,” McAfee Inc. security researcher David Marcus said in a blog post.

There have been no official photos or videos of bin Laden’s body released. A word of caution to those seeking images or video of Osama at room temperature.

However, thanks to photos and diagrams released by the U.S. Department of Defense, users of Google’s Map Maker web app have pinpointed bin Laden’s lair.

Sony’s headache upgraded to migraine

In last week’s Surfin’ Safari, we alerted you to Sony PlayStation’s security woes. PlayStation gamers may have been “gamed” out of credit card info. Not to worry though; Congress is getting to the bottom of the security breach.

This week the story continues to unfold, with Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer offering a public apology for the security hacks of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity music service, which have been offline since April 20. Additionally, Stringer is offering a “Welcome Back” package for close to 90 million users who have been affected. The package offers a month of free PlayStation Plus membership for PlayStation Network users and extensions of subscriptions for PlayStation Plus and Qriocity customers “to make up for time lost.”

Meanwhile, Sony is upgrading its security measures and was reportedly considering offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the hackers.

Stringer wrote on the PlayStation Blog that Sony has implemented a $1-million, identity-theft insurance policy to cover U.S. users affected by the security breach. Sony’s investigation is ongoing, and so far, a vigilante group calling itself “Anonymous” is one of the culprits.

As if that’s not causing Sony a major headache, a second hacking incident last week – the second such incident in a month – at its online gaming unit prompted Sony Online Entertainment to shut down its multi-player games such as EverQuest and The Matrix Online. And worst yet, hackers say they plan a third attack on the online gamer.

Circuit Breaker at Cnet News reports: “The people involved plan to publicize all or some of the information they are able to copy from Sony’s servers, which could include customer names, credit card numbers and addresses, according to the source. The hackers claim they currently have access to some of Sony’s servers.”

Visit Sony’s PlayStation blog for updated information and answers to frequently asked questions.

Never fear; government’s here!

Always ever ready to fight crime, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has launched an investigation into the Sony scandals.

And speaking of our “protectors” in the federal government, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D- W.Va., the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee says he’ll “introduce a bill that forces online advertising and tracking companies to let users easily opt out of online tracking,” according to a published report at Wired.com.

And just so you know they’re looking out for the kids, Reps. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., have drafted legislation that would protect the privacy of our children when they’re online. I thought that was a parent’s responsibility?

No matter, the wise Solons on Capitol Hill will take care of that little detail for you.

Apple releases security updates for iPhone, other devices

For those of you carrying around an iPhone, Apple Inc. has released a software update they say will reduce the amount of data stored on your device and delete the log of your recorded locations.

A published report states, “Updated software version, iOS 4.3.3, will reduce the size of the file storing locations from up to a year’s worth of data down to about a week’s worth, Apple said, and will give users the option of shutting off the data collection altogether by turning off the ‘Location Services’ setting.”

The software update will affect iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices.

Bits & bytes

The time capsule

1868 – “The Biggest Little City in the World” founded

1912 – 17th amendment passes; U.S. senators elected by popular vote

1940 – Chamberlain steps aside, Churchill new PM

1957 – Great Britain explodes H-bomb in Pacific

1981 – Pope John Paul II shot in St. Peter’s Square

1998 – India conducts underground nuke test

Now playing at the Princess Theater in Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Joe Leponis of Lusby, Md., and Paul Wendell, Midland, Texas, who were among the first to correctly guess actor Robert Culp in his portrayal of Mayor Tyler in the 1985 movie “Turk 182,” also starring Timothy Hutton, Robert Urich and Kim Cattrall.

Like the ubiquitous sticky notes being posted on filling station fuel pumps and grocery store food shelves across America asking, “How’s that ‘Hope and Change’ working for ya?” this film features graffiti that appears all over a city that denied benefits to a deserving firefighter who stepped into the line of duty while off duty.

The quote was: “If I see one more of these Turk messages that is bigger than a postage stamp, you are going to spend the rest of your career – I swear before God – pounding the beat in the South Bronx! Is that clear, Ryan?”

This week’s quote: “Well, boys, we got three engines out, we got more holes in us than a horse trader’s mule, the radio is gone and we’re leaking fuel, and if we was flying any lower why we’d need sleigh bells on this thing. … But we got one little budge on them Rooskies. At this height, why, they might harpoon us, but they dang sure ain’t gonna spot us on no radar screen!”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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