x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Did you tweet that?

Big Brother used to watch the little guy. Thanks to mobile technology and social media, the little guy is now doing the watching.

It may be every regular citizen's Orwellian nightmare: Big Brother watching the little guy. But thanks to the unstoppable rise of mobile technology and social media, the tables have been turned. As we saw on Sunday evening, the little guy is now doing the watching.

As the world's media went into overdrive at the news of Osama bin Laden's death, it emerged that an IT consultant in Pakistan unknowingly tweeted the progress of the 40-minute gun battle that culminated in the killing of al Qa'eda's leader.

"Uh oh, now I'm the guy who live-blogged the Osama raid without knowing it," Sohaib Athar, the observant social media user confessed later. In a matter of hours his Twitter popularity rose from a mere 750 followers to over 13,000.

Mr Athar wasn't alone in trumping the mainstream media. It was another Twitter post that leaked the killing. And Twitter confirmed news of bin Laden's shooting by US forces produced "the highest sustained rate of tweets ever".

The rate of tweets and pace of localised news making is proof that today, no matter how remote an event or how covert an operation, someone, somewhere will see it, and inevitably share it. Autocratic leaders are learning this lesson. Now, thanks to the fast fingers of little guys like Sohaib Athar, so is the CIA.