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Hack of Associated Press Twitter account dings stock market, makes users wary

Screenshot of AP's hacked account

Screenshot of AP's hacked account



Facing an audience in Los Angeles Sunday, I told the crowd that the double-edged sword of our modern media environment was that, in exchange for access to more information at their fingertips than ever before, they had a greater responsibility to check a wide range of sources to validate it all.

I had no idea the Associated Press would prove my point so well, days later.



Just after 1 p.m. today, the Twitter account for the worldwide wire service sent out a message saying there were explosions at the White House and President Barack Obama himself was wounded. According to the service's Twitter page, more than 1.9 million accounts "followed" messages from the news wire's account.

Within minutes, other AP employees were warning that the message was a fake issued by a hacked who had gain illegal access to their account. Minutes after that, Twitter suspended the account, though retweets of the message seemed to live on. AP also reported its mobile twitter account was hacked and would also be suspended.

According to a chart tweeted by Wall Street Journal reporter Charles Forelle, the Dow Jones stock market dropped more than 100 points for the brief moments that the tweet went uncorrected, returning to previous levels instantly. (I wondered if some of that was due to the impact of trading by computers, which react to shifts in the market so quickly, they sometimes magnify reactions to mistaken or misleading news.)

Combined with the ugly sight of widespread erroneous reporting connected to the Boston Marathon bombings, it seems obvious that the phrase caveat emptor never applied better to social media consumers, even when dealing with typically impeccable online news purveyors such as her Associated Press.

As journalists learn early on, even when your mother declares her love, you better check it out with a second source.

Turns out, Twitter users would be wise to follow the same credo, even for news coming from outlets with a better track record than mom.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 2:17pm]


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