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Twitter And Social Media’s Unreliability

By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News
Twitter was hacked July 15.
It’s old news already in our society with its limited attention span and lack of any real concern for what happens on the internet. It’s an intangible thing that can’t be felt physically so it lacks a degree of reality. But this attack on the security and sanctity of Twitter’s trust worthiness could come back to haunt us in the days before the Nov. 3 general election.

President Barack Obama’s Twitter account was taken over. So was that of former Vice President and now presidential candidate Joe Biden.  Billionaire and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk had their Twitter accounts hijacked. Each of these accounts has millions of followers.

It was considered one of the most severe attacks on the security of an internet social media company in years.

This time the hackers were only trying to dupe the gullible into handing over Bitcoin, an internet currency, to them. In what looked like a legitimate request from a trusted Twitter account and prominent personality, followers were asked to send in $1,000 in Bitcoin and they would get $2,000 back. Some readers of the messages forgot a basic lesson in caution: If it sounds too good to be true, it likely isn’t for real. It wasn’t. It was a scam.

Those who monitor the internet warn that the ability of the hacker, or hackers, to take over these accounts has the potential for dire consequences in the future.

“Many celebrities, politicians and business leaders often use Twitter as a public platform to make statements. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, regularly uses Twitter to post about national and geopolitical matters, and his account is closely followed by media, analysts and governments around the world,” the Associated Press reported.

“Can you imagine if they had taken over a world leader’s account, and tweeted out a threat of violence to another country’s leader?” Rachel Tobac, CEO of Socialproof Security, a social engineering hacker who specializes in providing training for companies to protect themselves from such breaches, said in an interview with AP.

Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said he wanted Twitter to work with the FBI in getting to the bottom of how the most valued clients in its system had their accounts violated. “A successful attack on your system’s servers represents a threat to all of your users’ privacy and data security,” he told AP.

There is another significant fallout from Twitter’s vulnerability to hackers – a loss of trust.

“If you receive a tweet from a verified account, belonging to a well-known and therefore trusted person, you can no longer assume it’s really from them,” said Michael Gazeley, managing director of cybersecurity firm Network Box.

Many in the news media, as well as the citizens across the world, follow the accounts of major figures in American politics and life. They quickly retweet any comments they see to their friends.

We have been living with false information on the internet since its inception into mainstream use more than 35 years ago. Internet users are manipulated by sophisticated misinformation created by clandestine government sponsored internet in China, Russia, Iran, and Korea, as well as other countries. These countries seek to create divisions in America, inflaming passions that already divide us.

Internet trolls inflame passions for their own perverse entertainment, or to help drive more people to their web<img src="/sites so they can make money off the ads on their pages.

Facebook, often referred to as the site where most people get their “news” these days, willingly lets false information spread on its website.

We are awash in “fake news” these days. It is created with the dual intention of fooling you into believing it is credible, and by doing so, misleads you about reality. It works. It gets deeply planted in the brains of people who want to believe it. It is repeated to others grasping for dirt against the opposition and cement for the foundation of their beliefs.

We know words can be manipulated. We know that photos can be doctored to tell a lie. Already, computer technology is allowing videos to be created of a person appearing to say things he or she never uttered. It will look so real that you will be hard pressed to believe it is a fake.

At one time, the internet held so much promise. It was going to revolutionize information, empowering the masses with no filter (professional editors and reporters) between them and the news. Reality has been a mixture of the uplifting  journalism but also  the internet is laced with far too much misinformation and lack of civility.

“Democracy requires citizens to see things from one another’s point of view, but instead we’re more and more enclosed in our own bubbles,” Eli Pariser writes in his book The Filter Bubble. “Democracy requires a reliance on shared fact; instead, we’re being offered parallel but separate universes.” We’ve all gone to our information silos to find confirming stories that depend on our convictions and cast not just doubt about others not like us but turns them into enemies.

In this divisive world our trusted sources of balanced, truthful information are limited.

Last week’s attack on Twitter could have been worse. What if Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media over deluged with false and divisive information in the days just before our Nov. 3 general election? What if Twitter starts sending out false Tweets that inflames partisan supporters to violence after their candidate loses?

“It could have been much worse. We got lucky that this is what they decided to do with their power,” Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and the former chief security officer at Facebook said of the hackers only asking for internet currency. “Twitter has become the most important platform when it comes to discussion among political elites, and it has real vulnerabilities.”

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