As events overnight have shown, it’s easy for social media hoaxes to have real world impact. The AP’s twitter account was hacked and a tweet that there had been explosions in the White House and President Obama was injured caused panic in the markets. A correction was issued within minutes but some $136.5billion (yes, billion) was temporarily wiped off the S&P500.
This follows other social media hoaxes closer to home. David Jones and Whitehaven have each recently fallen foul of pranksters and the signs are that this is a problem that will only get worse. So much so that in their latest guidance note the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has stated that it “strongly encourages” listed companies to monitor social media pages like Facebook and Twitter, chat sites and investor blogs.
What do we think? Monitoring social media is becoming increasingly important but it probably wouldn’t hurt if recipients paused to consider and verify information being provided by the more informal channels that social media provides. It’s not just about share prices, look at the harm caused to innocent people by erroneous identifications of the Boston bombers.
And no, as far as we know, the living-dead have not taken over Parliament (yet...)