Keeping secrets becomes harder in the age of Twitter

first_imgTwitter has once again been thrust into the spotlight as a result of its impact on a major news story. As we reported, Twitter is already credited with breaking the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, but in fairness it did come from a source in the mainstream media. So, while Twitter can’t really take credit for getting the news first, they can take credit for documenting an account of the raid while it was happening.A gentleman by the name of Sohaib Athar, who goes by @ReallyVirtual on Twitter, began tweeting about a helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am which he said was a rare event. The spotting of the helicopter was followed up by what was reported to be “a huge window shaking bang.” He went on to say that he hoped it wasn’t the start of “something nasty.”About an hour later, he reported that a helicopter was shot down near the Bilal Town area. As we now know, it has been confirmed a helicopter was lost in the raid on Osama Bin Laden due to a mechanical failure. At the time, Athar later believed the helicopter crash was the result of a training accident as claimed by a major of the Pakistan Army, though he did respond to @m0hcin via Twitter by saying a few people online believed that one of the copters was not Pakistani. As it turned out he was absolutely right about that one.Mohcin Shah (@m0hcin) also tweeted about events in Abbottabad during the evening commenting that nobody was picking up phones in the town, not even landlines, and that his family in the city reported hearing three blasts one after another. He went on to report that roads in the city were blocked and that army and local admin were “tight lipped” giving some indication that the Pakistani government may have cooperated with the raid.It wasn’t until many hours later that Athar came to grips with his small part in the historic event by tweeting, “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”Athar’s tweets show that with the invention of Twitter it has becoming increasingly harder for governments to control information. If phones and communication in the town were really cutoff during the Bin Laden raid, as was alluded to by Shah, someone forgot about Twitter. Athar, without even knowing it, could have tipped off supporters of Osama Bin Laden to send in reinforcements to push back the American led attack. On the flip side, Twitter is a gold mine for intelligence. If the roles were reversed and it was an American compound which was about to be raided, the eye witness account in real-time could have giving enough lead time for those within to prepare for an attack.It seems military planners and intelligence officers need to begin to put Twitter in the equation when it comes to receiving and controlling information. Just like any weapon, it can be used to our advantage, but also can be a dangerous tool when used by our enemy or innocent bystanders who are simply reporting what they are seeing from their bedroom window.last_img read more