By the time President Obama faced the camera to announce a key victory in the war on terror, he had already been upstaged by Twitter. Keith Urbahn, chief of staff to the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had got wind of something a couple of hours previously. “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn,” he tweeted.
And Obama would be outpaced again later that night by the tweets of Sohaib Athar (aka @reallyvirtual). While the US President gave spare details of the raid, Athar, an IT consultant who had moved from Lahore to Abbottabad for some peace, had written a firsthand account of his irritation at the sound of advancing helicopters. He identified them as non-Pakistani and even noted one of them crashing—something the White House refrained from mentioning for a while yet—without knowing its global significance.
Chris Applegate, a London social media geek on holiday in New York found Athar’s posts and connected them with Obama’s announcement. A couple of retweets later and the audience for Athar’s sightings multiplied from his 750 followers to millions.