FBI used Twitter, Facebook in hunt for 'Whitey' Bulger

Twitter lights up as news hits that alleged fugitive mobster is captured

When the FBI looked to step up its efforts to hunt down alleged fugitive mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, agents turned to social media.

And when the FBI apprehended the top man on the its Ten Most Wanted list on Wednesday night, agents announced the arrest on Twitter.

"I'm not surprised they used social networks," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group. "It's the fastest way to get info to people now. I think it's perfect for something like this. I think it's fair to say there's no faster way to reach millions of people quickly."

The FBI press office tweeted late Wednesday night: "FBI Agents in Santa Monica, CA have captured Boston Fugitive James J. "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig. boston.fbi.gov."

And the FBI had used social networking sites, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in a re-invigorated campaign to capture the long-time mob boss and his girlfriend Catherine Greig just this week. An ad, which appeared on television as well, asked people for help in finding Greig, who is believed to have been on the lam with Bulger for the past 16 years.

Not surprisingly, social networking sites heated up as soon as the news hit that Bulger had been found living in a Santa Monica, Calif. apartment just three blocks from the beach.

As people were quick to post messages on Facebook about the arrest, #whiteybulger and #bulger were two of the top trending topics on Twitter for several hours Thursday morning.

Twitter users were able to follow some of the on-site excitement this morning as reporters descended on Santa Monica, as well as outside the Massachusetts' home of William Bulger, Whitey's brother.

Boston Globe features writer Billy Baker has been tweeting about the arrest and his experience covering the reaction in South Boston. Baker also has been uploading video of his brother, who happens to live in Santa Monica three blocks from Bulger's apartment, at the scene of the arrest.

"Globe reporters are already in the sky to LA. Newsroom is going on all cylinders. Historic morning to be a journalist in Boston," tweeted billy_baker. "On the streets of Southie, some want to talk about a mass murderer, and others want to talk about a folk hero. Trial should kill the latter."

He also tweeted, "http://twitvid.com/X8KXG My brother, Jack, asks a Bruins question at press conference outside #whiteybulger's. #southie"

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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