On Tuesday 23 April a tweet from Associated Press (AP) told the world that the White House had been attacked and Obama had been injured. The tweet was of course a hoax as the Twitter account had been hacked but it caused some temporary chaos. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 144 points between 10.07am and 10.09am, for example. Crude oil prices also briefly tumbled and the price of US Treasury bonds and gold futures spiked. Within minutes, AP disclosed that the tweet was erroneous and things returned to normal, with the Dow eventually rising 152 points for the day to close at 14,719.
The havoc was due to automatic trading systems that check news agency output and sell or buy according to the latest news. The hacking was probably caused by something as mundane as a human employee clicking on a link in a ‘fishing email’ and inadvertently passing on the details for the AP Twitter account.
See this article for more information: Fragile systems let hoax tweets make twits of us all
There are serious issues regarding the fragility of financial systems being so automated that they can get spooked by what was clearly a false story. However the original hacking of the account was something that has been a problem since the early days of online banking. PayPal users have recently experienced a huge increase in fishing emails and we have provided some advice on avoiding getting caught out by fishing emails in an earlier blog post.
Paul Chambers, the man who was arrested and convicted for joking on Twitter about blowing up Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire has finally been acquitted after two years of Kafkaesque madness.
To recap: Chambers had arrived at Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire on 6 January 2010 hoping to fly to Belfast to meet his girlfriend, whom he had met on Twitter. On finding the airport closed by snow, he tweeted: “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!!” Nothing happened, Paul Chambers didn’t blow up the airport, however the message was read and reported to the police by an airport manager setting in motion a bizarre chain of events.
Paul Chambers, a trainee accountant, was arrested and convicted under section 127(1) of the Communications Act, which prohibits sending “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.
While this case was clear cut, recent death threats to celebrities such as British Olympic diver Tom Daley were investigated by the police, as the individual involved was making sustained and increasingly threatening comments.
Graham Linehan, writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd and high profile supporter of Paul Chamber’s aquittal, has written a great article on the difference between free speech and illegal abuse: A few thoughts on the Tom Daley ‘Twitter troll’ incident
See our earlier blog post here: The twitter joke that ruined a life and makes the law look daft
The micro-blogging website Twitter now has 10 million users in the UK and 140 million worldwide. This is a significant figure and exceeds, for the first time, the number of people that take a daily newspaper.
The website is a public forum where major and minor celebrities vie with each other for the number of followers and comedians such as Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais frequently ‘tweet’ their thoughts, jokes and public disputes. As well as the famous and pretenders, Twitter is an open forum for members of the public and businesses to put information out into the public domain with links back to your business or project.
Twitter is a fascinating place for checking opinions, generating publicity and provides great opportunities for businesses to promote their products.
Here are some commonly used terms that you need to know about:
Judgement has been reserved in the appeal case of Paul Chambers, the accountant that was convicted and lost two jobs because of an ill-judged but obvious joke made on Twitter.
Paul Chambers was arrested in January 2010 after he vented his frustration at his cancelled flight on Twitter. “Robin Hood airport is closed,” he tweeted. “You’ve got a week and a bit to get your s**t together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
That statement was considered a credible security threat and Chambers was arrested and convicted in May 2010 at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court of sending “a message of a menacing character”, contrary to provisions of the 2003 Communications Act, fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs. His employees also sacked him.
Chambers now lives in Northern Ireland with the woman he was going to see in 2010. However when he revealed to his new employees about his appeal case he was promptly sacked again.
When Chambers was first convicted it sparked the “I am Spartacus” campaign where thousands of Twitter users copied his original tweet to highlight the absurdity of a law that has been applied to the letter. Unfortunately it also makes the law look like an ass and has wasted huge amounts of taxpayer’s money. Surely these resources could have been better spent on monitoring and arresting real terrorists?
A prominent Premiership footballer is currently attempting to sue the Twitter corporation and persons unknown (i.e. those that have named him in recent Tweets). While Christmas has come very early for his lawyers, the net result has been even more people knowing about his exploits and his name spreading to other social media like Facebook.
The Internet is still seen as the last bastion of free expression, and many of us write blogs, tweet and update websites without thinking through the legal implications of what we say. In 2001, there was a landmark legal case where a lecturer Dr Godfrey successfully sued Demon Internet for not removing a forged message sent in his name. Demon Internet left the offending remark available for 10 additional days after the initial complaint from Dr Godfrey and that oversight cost them over £250 000 in an out of court settlement.
Following Godfrey v Demon, ISPs began to remove defamatory statements as soon as they received a complaint about them, although this has yet to be challenged in court.
It’s quite common and desirable to be passionate in what we write in social media and websites, but perhaps we should be more wary of what we say as English libel laws do apply to information posted on the Internet. Your ISP may intervene to remove an offending remark, but you could also liable for action. In the 2006 case of Keith-Smith versus Williams an individual posting a message on a Yahoo discussion board was successfully sued for her comments.
Social media websites like Twitter and Facebook are already important part of personal and business lives however criminals are targeting these sites to spread Malware and viruses.
Although the number of attacks is still small compared to more usual email and dubious websites, this type of attack is set to grow.
For more information visit this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12967254
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