AP Twitter account hacked, fake Tweet causes Dow to fall 143 points

AP Twitter account hacked, fake Tweet causes Dow to fall 143 points

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It wasn’t the first Twitter account to be hacked, nor will it be the last. But on Tuesday fake tweets from a hacked @AP account caused momentary panic on Wall Street. A, clearly not true, announcement that the President of the United States was injured after explosions caused a 143 point fall on the Dow Jones industrial average.

The Tweet was clearly a fake. It didn’t follow the style of other Tweets from the AP account, and it was sent during a live conference from the White House (which was undisturbed by the apparent ‘explosions’). In fact it had all the hallmarks of a fake Tweet and was no doubt spotted by many. The response was quick – the account was taken down for the rest of the day whilst AP restored control and deleted the Tweets that had been sent. But this didn’t stop the markets getting jittery.

The drop in the Dow was quickly recovered, but this experience shows the damage that can be done by hacked accounts or even erroneous Tweets. And it shows the impact that actions in social media can have on stock market movements.

Twitter is becoming the go-to source for many people for breaking news and information – with a belief that news and information will be spread more rapidly thought this social network. It is also being used as a data source for algorithms and systems that use social data to make decisions. It may have been such algorithms that caused the drop in the Dow on Tuesday – automatically identifying the Tweet and trading quickly.

So for both human and machine ‘observers’, the reliance on Twitter as a data source is increasing and decisions are being made quickly on what is found there. Brands need to be conscious of this not just when they plan their online security and crisis communications plans – what would happen if their Twitter account was hijacked? They also need to be conscious of the potential impact of what they use Twitter for and what they say.

What brands say and how they behave on Twitter is moving from just being a communications mechanism to reflecting on the performance of the business and brand as a whole. A poorly targeted or planned Tweet could have as much damage as a fake Tweet from a hacked account.