Twitter and Bin Laden 2

The burst of Twitter reports of Bin Laden’s death prior to any official announcements is continuing to generate interest.  NPR has an informative interview with Andy Carvin, NPR’s senior strategist for social media (thanks to Georgia Kernell for sending it to me).  The event raises several interesting questions about social dynamics and the spread of information.  It would be interesting to know how many false reports of Osama Bin Laden’s death there have been on Twitter prior to this that didn’t “go viral.”  It would seem that a key feature of this particular cascade of tweets was the apparent authority of the “earlier adopters.”  The initial tweet that got things going seems to have come from a former aide to Donald Rumsfeld.  This tweet was probably picked up by other “Beltway insiders.”  I would guess a key feature to the rumor’s success in spreading was the fact that these initial tweeters were people that other people trusted to know this sort of thing.  That’s a difficult aspect to capture in basic compartmental models of rumor spreading, or even standard network models of information transmission.  You not only need to have highly credible individuals, but you have to have a large cluster of credible individuals that are all tightly connected to one another.