Twitter shares biggest world news stories this year
The year 2011 was defined by historic events, from regime changes to royal nuptials to financial crises.
December 6th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Twitter shares biggest world news stories this year

There's no doubt this year has been one filled with dramatic news events. There have been global natural disasters and world-shaping revolutions in Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa. There have been deaths marking the end of successful careers and also those of long-time dictators or terrorists.

And some might say 2011 more than any other year was one influenced by you, by what you were saying, what you were doing, what you were sharing and what you were contributing to the news. Some of the major news stories of the year even began with you, whether you were uploading photos and videos from the dramatic Arab Spring uprisings, capturing the devastation after an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or commenting on the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi. In an increasingly mobile world, news rippled through our social spheres at rapid paces this year.

So it is interesting to examine what Twitter has released as its top news stories and trending topics of the year. CNN has also taken a look and created our own year in review. But we want you to vote on what you think the biggest and most important stories of the year were.

In some cases, the similarities between CNN's list and Twitter's list make complete sense. Certain stories were prevalent no matter where you were or where you get your news. But naturally, because certain movements began or were influenced more by social networking or citizen journalism like CNN's iReport (the revolutions in Arab nations, Occupy Wall Street and others), some rank higher on Twitter's list. It's an interesting dynamic between two forms of media that are constantly dovetailing.

Many of the top news stories also found their way into being the top hashtag topics of the year (#egypt, #tigerblood, thanks to Charlie Sheen, and #japan), Twitter reported.

So without further ado, here's a look at some of the stories Twitter says were the biggest topics of 2011. You can read the full list here.

World News

1. Mubarak's resignation

When Hosni Mubarak's decades-long rule over Egypt came to an end in February, Cairo's Tahrir Square was a scene of jubilation, as hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the fall of a man many had feared for years.

The revolution that sparked the topple of Mubarak's regime  was powered largely by a social media movement that took an online sentiment and brought it into the streets. People posted videos online, tweeted about the movement and continued to shout their message for all to hear. And now, for the first time since the end of Mubarak's 30-year rule, Egyptians will be able to choose their representatives to the nation's parliament.

2. Raid on Osama bin Laden

Navy SEAL Team Six became part of American military lore when the elite unit raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and the most wanted terrorist in the world who had orchestrated the terror attacks of 9/11. It was a news event that sparked widespread excitement in the United States, where some celebrated the death of a man the country had been hunting for so long.

Besides being a major story, one that is leading in CNN's poll for the top story of the year, it was one that triggered a massive response in social networks with everyone wondering whether it was really true. But Twitter also had an interesting connection to this story. User Shohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) unknowingly was live-tweeting the raid.

His tweet? "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)." Rare, indeed. And historic.

3. Japanese earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster

The earth shook off the coast of Japan in March, triggering one of the worst tsunamis in years, destroying nearly everything in its path and sending millions fleeing for high ground.

The quake was one heard about around the globe, thanks in part to Twitter's sharing of information, as it became clear there was utter calamity from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake. And Japan found itself dealing with the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility was knocked offline, resulting in a meltdown of three reactors, with radiation leaking into the air and contaminated water spilling into the sea.  You helped us share the story, too, by contributing to CNN iReport's Open Story, a collaborative effort of CNN and hundreds of iReport contributors who experienced the quake and its aftermath.

4. Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in the head as she met with constituents at a supermarket near Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed in the attack, including a young girl and a federal judge. Many people tweeted about the incident as it was happening, looked to find out more about the suspect in the shooting, Jared Loughner, and prayed for those who were killed and injured. The shooting also sparked a debate about gun laws in the state.

Giffords has awed the nation in her recovery. The congresswoman traveled to Kennedy Space Center in May to watch her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, command the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour.

5. Gadhafi's death

Another uprising that played out on Twitter at a remarkable pace was the rebel's fight for Libyan freedom under the rule of long-time strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

As the battle for key areas raged in the country, including Tripoli, the clashes played out moment-by-moment on Twitter and in live blogs from many news organizations. Gadhafi was eventually killed in October after months on the run from rebel forces and NATO bombardments, news that was also met with great celebration in Libya.

News first began rolling in on Twitter that he had been captured. And then there were reports of his death. Videos began being circulated on Twitter from YouTube showing a man who was believed to be a bloodied and battered Gadhafi. The debate raged online as to whether he was in fact dead. Then following the confirmation of Gadhafi's death, an interesting debate swirled online, too: Was it necessary for us as a world to see the picture of the dead ruler to know for sure that he was gone for good.

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. BOMBO

    I was lucky enough to be there for the last shuttle launch. AWESOME. Which means I was also in Orlando for the Casey Anthony verdict. Not as awesome.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jaded

    Here's the most important news
    The economy
    This guy says it ALL

    $$$$$ __$$$$$$$$_$$$$
    $$$$$$$ __$$$$$$$$$__$

    December 6, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • kanadian

      LOVE your art!!!! You're speaks volumes!!

      December 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh Davis

      That art sucks.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ilovefarts

      Don't quit your job at Burger King quite yet...

      December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miclovin

      Awsome art took me a few minuites to realize exactly what it was lol

      December 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Somehow, these pretty pictures lose their impact on a phone.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jaded

    Oh, sorry banasy. I'll try to make them smaller or not do it as much. Morning 🙂

    December 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasys stalker

    im on a phone as well. Lucky enough to have zoom so i could see it. Very nice if u did it yourself. Still nice

    December 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saywhat

    IIndeed 2011 has been a 'wake up' year.
    ndeed the people around the world are making their voices heard. Decades of repression, lying and plunder by the ruling elite are coming to an end.
    If we the American people can get a breather from meeting our mortgages, credit card payments , pink slips & job hunts, perhaps we may also get a sense of what has been happening and down which path we are being led by those who control our destiny.
    Perhaps then we may also drag ourselves away from the Tube for a moment to reflect on our condition & the world that awaits our kids grand kids.
    Or perhaps the very factors which hang heavy on our heads & pockets jolt us into a 'wake up' position.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tcr c2

    Nice i like the art it gets it across

    December 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jaded

    @ Tcr c2, Thanks
    @ banasy stalker, not sure if I should address you? But thanks anyhow.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. saywhat

    @ Jaded
    Very illustrative. Exactly the current sentiment.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jaded

    @ saywhat, What did you say? 😉 Sorry, couldn't resist. Thanks, but I'm back to work after being out for 5 days and can't get to the graphics as much today; or reading the blogs for that matter.

    December 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy©

    @banasy's stalker:
    My phone, being the pos it, doesn't have that.
    But thanks for trying to help.

    Hey! How are you? Are you going to be named after precious stones forevermore?

    December 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasys stalker

    strange name i have i know. But see clearly a troll i am not

    December 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. anaeliss

    Why don't we have a Jubilee Year? Forgive the 99% for their debts and let us start over?!?!!??

    December 6, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ann

    The media still thinks that social media is what Egypt was all about, even when most people involved were just doing it the natural way and half the "Egyptian" accounts were fake. That's going to end up in the history books–"the day social media drove a revolution." And it's not even true. It's one thing to distort it years later, but here we are, reading it live.

    There will also be stories about the number of people who were killed or killed themselves because of Facebook. Ha ha ha.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. martinmunson

    The news story of the year, without question, is Casey Anthony. New photos of her posted to (wickedimproper . com)

    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
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