Reports of all kinds surfaced on the internet in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing by a team of U.S. Navy Seals on Sunday night. The news drove traffic to news web sites and it continues to do that today.
It’s exactly in these kinds of explosive news stories where the internet shows both its value as an information resource, and its curse as a source of crazy information. We’ve already noted that one witness to the firefight live tweeted the attack, even though he didn’t know what it was. And we noted that malware creators are exploiting the bin Laden news to distribute new malware against unsuspecting news junkies.
Oddly enough, the stock market had a muted reaction to the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up slightly during the day and it closed down 0.03 percent on Monday. The Nikkei average rose 1.57 percent, and the broader S&P 500 closed down 0.18 percent.
In news of questionable taste, makers of “tabloid games” are generating instant flash games that depict the killing of bin Laden. These include the just-released Mujahedin game where a user can play bin Laden as he blows up a U.S. installation. Kuma War has had more than 100 episodes of its realistic shooter combat, with new episodes tailored to depicting controversial combat missions such as the killing of Saddam Hussein’s two sons. The Kuma War folks are contemplating doing a scenario where gamers can kill bin Laden.
In addition to that, the bin Laden news keeps on driving traffic today. ABC News got an exclusive video look “inside Osama bin Laden’s lair.” The camera pans across blood-stained floors in a bedroom of the compound and it shows a bedroom in disarray. It’s a poor-quality video, but one that will likely get lots of views.
Business Insider said that “Twitter just had its CNN moment,” meaning that the Bin Laden revelation on Twitter was a lot like how people learned about the start of the American involvement in the 1991 Gulf War from CNN. There’s some hyperbole in that for sure, since CNN also had another CNN moment, carrying President Obama’s speech live and capturing the reaction around the world in a visual way that Twitter can’t duplicate.
Yahoo said that searches for “Osama Bin Laden” spiked 98,550 percent on Sunday, while searches on “September 11” were up 1009 percent on Sunday. President Bush searches are up 302 percent, “Pakistan map” is up 2,594 percent, and “Pakistan news” is up 610 percent. Interestingly, the birthers now have good company among conspiracy theorists, as one of the top search terms on Yahoo is “Is Osama Really Dead?” Those folks clearly want to see the “death certificate” and they’re very unhappy bin Laden was buried at sea. (And they seem to have missed out on the fact that this started as a joke on Twitter last night.)
Numerous conspiracy theories have now been floated on the internet about whether the whole attack has been staged or not.
AllThingsD noted that the lack of technology brought bin Laden down. As the CIA scoped out the $1 million compound, they were struck by the fact that it had no internet access or telephones, and that the residents burned their trash rather than put it out on the street. Had bin Laden been watching Twitter, for instance, he might have figured out an attack was under way.