Twitter Beats the BBC to Tottenham Court Road Siege

By the time the BBC first reported Friday’s siege on Tottenham Court Road, Twitter users had been following the news for an hour and had even seen an...

By the time the BBC first reported Friday’s siege on Tottenham Court Road, Twitter users had been following the news for an hour and had even seen an interview with the intended target on YouTube.

The first tweets started coming in at 12.14pm. Within 5 minutes we were looking at photos from the scene and details of a man with gas canisters strapped to him were starting to emerge. Stephen Hull, Huffington Post UK Executive Editor, was one of those live tweeting and by 1pm he had posted a YouTube video – an interview with Abby Baafi, the member of staff that was the intended target of the attack.

It was 12:58 by the time @bbcnewsuk posted their first tweet; “Met Police says part of Tottenham Court Road cordoned off as man throws objects from 5th floor of office. Details soon”. Underneath were two apt comments; “Way ahead of you” and “Why is this not on the BBC news channel?”

If the BBC’s Twitter account was slow, their website was slower. It was 1.30pm by the time a well hidden article went up and 2.06pm before it became a top story – picture and all.

This is just the latest of many stories that has been broken on social media. Remember the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s complex was inadvertently reported by a neighbour complaining about the noise! Because of this, people are increasingly turning to Facebook and Twitter as a news source.

One thing worth considering is whether this culture of instant news comes at the expense of quality news. As Friday’s story unfolded, there was confusion about whether the man had a bomb, a flamethrower, or gas canisters and a blow torch. A reminder that social networks are not necessarily a reliable or accurate source.

Read Next

In this article

Join the Conversation


  1. Richard Hughes Reply

    The BBC and all credible news organizations have the irritating burden of having to check whether something is true before broadcasting it. Twitter users don’t have to. So yes, Twitter gives you faster news, but no way of knowing whether to believe it.

    1. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

      Fair comment Richard. It’s going to be a challenge for news organisations like the BBC to compete with well-funded outfits like the Huffington Post – which can offer near real-time news without necessarily jumping through the same editorial hoops.

  2. bcsAgency Blog | Twitter, football and relegation woes Reply

    […] With smartphones giving us constant access to networks like Twitter, disseminating information quickly has become easier and more important than ever. Increasingly, we hear of stories being broken first on Twitter, and criticism of traditional news sources for being slow on the uptake. In recent weeks, when a man caused a bomb scare on Tottenham Court Road, the news didn’t become a top story on the BBC website until two hours after it was first reported on Twitter. […]