What Happens When the Twitterverse and the Universe Collide?

The rise and proliferation of computer technology, the Internet, and subsequently social networking has allowed for a very interconnected world. The Syrian rebels update the world on their side of the war via the blogosphere and the Twitterverse, every company you’ve ever heard has a Facebook page, and Justin Bieber has near 40 million followers across every popular networking site. Think about that for a second: a thought pops into his head, he tweets it, and 40 million people know about it. Aside from whatever you think about him and his cult, you have to admit he wields a pretty crazy amount of power. A lot of companies and entities have that sort of exposure now too, thanks to the glorious Internet. So, I ask you, what exactly does that much exposure mean for the real world?

On April 23rd, 2013 someone hacked the Associated Press’s Twitter account and tweeted: “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” The AP quickly took the tweet down, but not before it had been retweeted and shared by nearly 3,000 people. That’s enough retweets to spread like a small wildfire and that’s exactly what happened. As a result of the exposure of the hoax tweet, the stock market went wild and dropped by 143 points, eventually rebounding in light of the exposed sabotage.

The AP had a meager 1.9 million followers on Twitter, but the effect of the hoax had a pretty damning result. What’s more unnerving is that the hacking of corporately owned social networking accounts and pages is that it is relatively common. A not-surprising amount of the companies hacked have been claimed by the Internet activist group Anonymous and most of the time they’re just doing it for fun and not trying to seriously disrupt economic or social institutions. In February Anonymous claimed the hack on Burger King’s Twitter account and, after changing the account name to McDonalds,  tweeted, “Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped …” Considering the tweet, I really wish McDonald’s had been the one to hack the account.


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