Osama bin Laden is dead. The leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, responsible for the deadly September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, was killed today in a fire fight in Pakistan, President Barack Obama confirmed Sunday night.
“Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world, that the United States has conducted an operation that has killed Osama bin Laden — the leader of al-Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children,” said President Obama in a late-night press conference, which aired live on the official White House website.
The demise of the world’s most sought-after super-villain resulted in an explosion of online activity. While we do not have exact numbers yet, we experienced extremely long load times on a number of major news websites, including NYTimes.com, and MSNBC.com. CNN’s mobile website crashed entirely after the news erupted through the public consciousness.
Word of bin Laden’s death first leaked via White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, who enigmatically announced on Twitter: “POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern Time.” Some journalists reportedly received ominous emails that read only: “Get to work.”
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit exploded with activity. Twitter became the first platform through which the news of bin Laden’s was reported. And In a short time, “Osama Bin Laden” shot to the top of Twitter’s top trending topics, worldwide. That was closely followed by the hashtag #obl. “Mission Accomplished,” the infamous slogan of former President George W. Bush, also made the list, as did “Wolf Blitzer,” “Watching CNN,” “Jack Bauer” and “Islamabad.”
A Facebook page entitled “Osama Bin Laden is DEAD” already had more than 180,000 “likes” at the time of this writing. Another, called “The guy who killed Osama,” also popped up nearly instantly. It currently has more than 15,000 “likes.”
Reddit’s “new” submission page was flooded with attempts to be the first to report the staggering revelation to that news-hungry community. Reddit user “illbite” quickly won the honor of the No. 1 spot on Reddit’s front page. The No. 2 and No. 3 spots were also taken by the Osama bin Laden news.
On Tumblr, Osama bin Laden’s death instantly became a meme, with users posting a wide variety of content, from celebratory to cynical. Many more users posted screen grabs of news publication websites with typos, like one of KTXL FOX40 in Sacramento accidentally (?) declaring “Obama bin Laden dead” instead of “Osama.”
Obviously, the implications of bin Laden’s death spread further and deeper than the instantaneous ramblings of the Internet machine might imply. But whatever those implications are, we’re pretty sure they will first be reported in a tweet.