WASHINGTON — Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher beat media giant CNN Friday in a duel to see which could amass one million Twitter followers first.
The star of the television series "That '70s Show" and husband of actress Demi Moore defeated the news channel in a challenge on the micro-blogging service that promised a large charitable donation from the winner.
Kutcher, whose Twitter handle is @aplusk, had nearly 2,000 followers more than CNN when he reached the 1 million mark early Friday.
In a live webstream as he neared the winning post, the actor, sporting an upturned Panama hat, described the race as the "establishment" vs. "we the people."
The actor threw down the gauntlet to Cable News Network this week after noticing that he had nearly as many followers on his Twitter account as CNN.
Kutcher, who said he would donate 10,000 mosquito nets to stop the spread of Malaria if he won, could be seen on the webstream with a check for $100,000 to be donated to the "Malaria No More"' fund.
"Victory is ours!!!!!!!!" Kutcher 'tweeted' shortly after 2 a.m. CNN stoicly conceded defeat. "Ashton Kutcher is first to reach 1 million followers in Twitter contest with CNN," it said.
The actor had said that, if he won, he would "ding, dong, ditch" the house of CNN founder Ted Turner — ring his doorbell and then run away.
Turner does not own CNN anymore but the network taped a video response by talk show host Larry King.
"Hey Kutcher," King said. "Are you putting me on? Are you kidding? Do you think you can take on an entire network?
"Do you know how big we are? Do you know what CNN is? Kutcher, you're playing out of your league. CNN will bury you," King said jokingly.
Kutcher also promised to give his millionth follower a copy of the "Guitar Hero" video game.
At noon (1600 GMT) on Thursday, CNN's breaking news feed on Twitter - @cnnbrk - led the contest with 966,363 followers to Kutcher's 953,268.
In a twist to the race, CNN acknowledged that it had not even owned the @cnnbrk account until this week and that it had acquired it only on Wednesday, from a British Web developer.
Kutcher, a high-tech afficionado who regularly appears at Web 2.0 conferences across the country, said he views his popularity as evidence of the rise of social media.
"I think it's a huge statement about social media for one person to actually have the ability to broadcast to as many people as a major media network," he said in a YouTube video.
"I think it sort of signifies the turning of the tide from traditional news outlets to social media outlets, social news outlets," Kutcher said.
"With our video cameras on our cellphones and our picture cams and our blogging and our Twittering and our posting and our Facebooking we actually become the source of the news and the broadcasters of the news and the consumers of the news," he said.
Kutcher is one of many celebrities who have adopted social networking tools such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook in a bid to shape their own image and bypass the tabloids.
Demi Moore is also on Twitter, sending out updates of a maximum 140 characters under the handle @mrskutcher. She has nearly 550,000 followers.
In his race to 1 million followers, Kutcher sailed past another notable Twitter user: pop singer Britney Spears, who has more than 915,000 followers.
Unlike Kutcher and Moore, however, most of the updates on Spears' Twitter feed are from her publicist.
© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.