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The power of Twitter

IT consultant Sohaib Athar was just minding his own business in peaceful Abbottabad, when a sudden noise disrupted his peace. Annoyed he fired off a quick tweet to complain about the intrusion: "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am (is a rare event)." Little did he realise that by doing so, he was the first person to report on the death of wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Twitter's role didn't end there. People were tweeting about bin Laden's death 20 minutes before CNN started to speculate about it. It showed social media's advantage in announcing breaking news before the traditional media. However, there is a lot more to Twitter than just passing titbits of news as professional football player Ryan Giggs discovered to his cost.

The Manchester United star took out an injunction to prevent the media in Great Britain reporting on his extra-marital affair with model Imogen Thomas. Although the gagging order worked on the traditional media, it did not prevent 75,000 people identifying him as a cheat on Twitter. When Giggs instructed his lawyers to go after these Twitter users, an exasperated John Hemming decided to use his privilege of free speech as a member of British Parliament to talk about the affair, thus enabling traditional media to also report on the case without fear of legal prosecution.

Still not convinced? How about using Twitter to make cash on the stock exchange? Researchers from Indiana University-Bloomington discovered in 2010 that analysing tweets can help to predict the direction of changes to the Dow Jones Industrial Average a few days later. A mood-tracking tool was used to gauge the mood of the majority of tweets, which was then used to get an indication of what would happen to stocks.

All the more reason to follow the Parliament's twitter account. It just might change your life!

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