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Hoaxes, Hackers and Halfwits turn Social Media into a ‘Risky Business’

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Associated Press, the world’s largest and oldest news gathering organization, had its Twitter account (@AP )compromised last week. The hacker posted about a fake explosion that had occurred in the White House in which Barrack Obama was injured.

Even before the tweet could be removed, the market had moved into some of the most fanatic action leading to, according to Reuters data, a brief wipe out of $136.5 billion (89.5 billion pounds) of the S&P 500 index’s value, before markets recovered.

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All of this happened in exactly 3 minutes, which goes to show the power of the medium, but at the same time begs the oft-asked question, “Does Twitter have a credibility problem?”

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Social Media’s status as an essential pillar in Hoaxes, the media dynamics, of course, has several detractors. And, they have had a field day in the recent past.

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings it was Reddit who had to apologize to the family of the missing college student, Sunil Tripathi. Sunil had gone missing in Boston about a month prior to the attacks, and his name started trending worldwide on Twitter after a crowd-sourced ‘Sherlock-like’ investigation on Reddit.

His sister described Reddit as “one of the more ugly and disgusting places that had a lot of traffic” relating to her brother.

Cyber security and hacking are fast gaining pace and entering into the league of terrorism, in terms of the threat to National security. Companies have no excuse for not being on the guard against hackers from infiltrating their social media accounts.

That is especially true, given the fact that many companies as well as high-profile individuals disburse essential and critical information via their social media accounts. The crowd, in this case, the followers, can be easily manipulated if anti-social (no pun intended) elements wish to do so.

In my opinion, this is not so much an issue of Social Media as a news medium, but more of an attack on our ultra-high speed news consumption and sharing habits. And, in this rush of being the first one to break out the news, (yes, we as individuals have this urge too, including myself) we end up forgetting the simple rules of a little research which should go into it.

This is extenuated by the innumerable amount of hoaxes doing rounds on the internet. All the creator of these hoaxes has to do is either make very tall claims which cannot be substantiated so easily or those pieces which seem so obvious, that no one even bothers to verify it.

This is exactly how “Jana Gana Mana” becomes the Best National Anthem of the world, because UNESCO ‘deemed it so’. Or, Engineering is declared as the toughest among all curriculums of study. Though, I’m pretty sure the latter was created by someone to be a meme; but he obviously underestimated how stupid people can be.

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Companies have their own interests to consider, which should be reason enough for them to put enough securities and counter-measures in place.

Even after that, if the security structure is lackluster to allow for breaches, they are to be blamed. Unfortunately, the threat is not only from outside but also from those rogue insiders who have a ‘score to settle’ with their employers.

What according to you can be done other than elaborate security structures to control this menace? Please comment with your suggestions.

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