Analysis: Truth and consequences - a dilemma for Twitter and its users
By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Does Twitter have a credibility problem?
For many, a single fake tweet from the Associated Press account that briefly roiled financial markets on Tuesday, driving the Dow Jones industrial average down about 145 points, vividly reaffirmed the fearsome, near-instantaneous power of the 140-character message.
But the security lapse also revived doubts about Twitter's place in the media landscape - and its ultimate value - at a moment when its status as one of today's essential information networks had seemed all but cemented.
Just a week after social media networks took criticism for helping circulate misinformation about the alleged perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, Twitter's security shortcomings fell under a harsh spotlight Tuesday after a hacker group commandeered the AP Twitter account and falsely reported that explosions in the White House had injured President Barack Obama.
The AP was only the latest hacking victim in recent days after Twitter accounts belonging to National Public Radio, CBS 60 Minutes and others were breached. Last year, Reuters News was the victim of hackers who briefly took over one of its Twitter accounts and posted false tweets.
The latest hack was by far the most significant: the single AP tweet stunned investors and effectively wiped out $136.5 billion of the S&P 500 index's value in a matter of minutes.
Although the news agency later disclosed that one of its employees may have inadvertently given away company passwords as the result of a "phishing" attack by the hackers, security experts quickly faulted Twitter for its longstanding failure to implement two-factor authentication, a double-layered password feature used by the likes of Google Inc and Microsoft Inc that might have prevented the spate of high-profile Twitter hijackings.
"It's one of those cases that we are seeing too often. It's getting unnerving," said Robert Quigley, a journalism lecturer specializing in social media at the University of Texas. "What media organizations need to do is pressure Twitter to have a more secure website." Continued...