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Social media shapes word of Bin Laden's death

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TWC News: Social media shapes word of Bin Laden's death
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Word of Osama Bin Laden's death filled social media sites more than one hour before the official word came from President Barack Obama Sunday evening.

It’s another chapter in the social networking phenomenon that’s helped change the way people all over the world get their news.

Professor Corinne Weisgerber teaches a course on social media at St. Edward’s University in South Austin. She said the news of Bin Laden's death will likely be discussed in her class for years to come.

"I couldn't read them quickly enough because it was refreshing so quickly," she said.

Student Sara Hoover said she and her friends used cell phones, iPads, laptops and television to receive new information about Bin Laden's death.

"Every medium that we could use possible, we were on, tracking everything," she said.

Even at downtown bars, Austinites clenched their smart phones, checking social media sites and spreading the news to others.

By the time President Obama hit the airwaves late Sunday evening, Bin Laden's death had spread across Twitter and other sites for more than an hour.

"Really, the story had been tweeted and retweeted, and I think confirmed by most of the major news outlets," Weisgerber said.

One man, with the user name "@ReallyVirtual" on Twitter, had no idea at the time he was giving a play-by-play of a historic moment, unfolding just blocks from his home in Pakistan.

He tweeted, "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1 a.m. (is a rare event).”

Annoyed at first, he later connected Obama's impromptu address to what he called "a huge window shaking bang."

However, not everything that was tweeted or updated Sunday night was 100 percent accurate.

"Obviously, some of the journalistic conventions of double checking and triple checking sources doesn't apply any longer to social media," Weisgerber said.

Part of that error, Weisgerber says, comes from a drive to be first which can compromise accuracy.

Twitter reached an all-time record number tweets being posted at one time. Users sent an average of 3,000 tweets per second from 9:45 p.m. Sunday to 1:20 a.m. Monday. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP