UPDATE: Twitter now says that the volume peaked at the start of Obama's speech with 5,106 tweets per second, which would put it clearly ahead of the 2011 Superbowl. Further, "Last night saw the highest sustained rate of Tweets ever. From 10:45 to 2:20am ET, there was an average of 3,000 Tweets per second," according to Twitter's communications team (@twitterglobalpr).
Earlier, Twitter had reported more than 4,000 tweets per second at the beginning and end of President Obama's surprise speech last night announcing the death of Osama bin Laden. For those on Twitter at the time, it was already old news. High-level rumors had been flying for about an hour by the time the President took to the podium for the official word. The rumors seem to have originated with a highly retweeted post from Keith Urbahn, chief of staff to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who wrote, "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn."
Interestingly, there weren't many retweets of his next posts:
- "Don't know if its true, but let's pray it is ."
- "Indeed. RT @joshuafoust: Eh. We've heard it before."
- "Ladies, gents, let's wait to see what the President says. Could be misinformation or pure rumor."
Nor were there as many retweets (at least in my feeds) of his later admission, "My source was a connected network TV news producer. Stories about "the death of MSM" because of my "first" tweet are greatly exaggerated."
But regardless, social media declared its victory over the slow-moving traditional media who had the gall to confirm with their own sources before announcing the kind of news that runs across all columns of a newspaper.
How did it stack up against other events? Given that the source was a tweet we'll call it a virtual tie with the peak during the 2011 Superbowl in second place for the most-tweeted event. Twitter has cited New Year's Eve hitting Japan as the most tweeted of all time. The speech comes out ahead of the other well-tweeted events such as the World Cup, the royal wedding, the 2011 Oscars and Obama's inauguration.
Note: this isn't a true ranking, but a sampling of events with stats based on news reporters, statements from Twitter and other media partners. In some cases, tweets per minute were average out to get to a tweets per second.