The news that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed by US troops has resulted in the highest number of sustained tweets ever achieved by Twitter, as security companies warn that spammers could take advantage of his death.
In a statement from Twitter’s global PR team, the social networking giant announced it had reached an average of 3000 tweets per second from 10.45pm until 2.20am US eastern time; when the news of bin Laden’s death began appearing across various news sites until three hours after President Obama finished addressing the nation about the successful US mission.
The news of bin Laden’s death was unknowingly leaked via Twitter from a resident of Pakistan, Sohaib Athar, who began tweeting that a helicopter was hovering above his home town Abbottabad; the city that was later revealed as the place Osama bin Laden was captured.
Athar tweeted that the helicopter hovering above Abbottabad was a rare event, and that the helicopters did not appear to be Pakistani.
The news of bin Laden's death also had an impact of CNN's mobile news site, which crashed as the news broke.
Symantec and Sophos have also warned that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the news, reporting that 419 scams and emails have advertised “unseen footage” from bin Laden’s last moments.
Sophos' head of technology for Asia Pacific, Paul Ducklin, said the scams are cropping up in multiple online locations.
"Watch out for the links you're likely to come across in email or on social networking sites offering you additional coverage of this newsworthy event," he said in a statement. "Many of the links will be perfectly legitimate but at least some are almost certain to be dodgy and will trick you into hostile internet territory."
The extraordinary role that Twitter played in the unfolding events of bin Laden’s death come after last week's royal wedding captured the attention of users of social networking sites, with the royal nuptials streamed live on YouTube to millions of viewers worldwide.
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