The $136 Billion Tweet – Ouch!

Our digital age has equipped us with tools we do not fully know how to use and has opened up caverns of liability that we are only just getting a glimpse of as incidents like last week’s face tweet that caused the Stock Market to plummet.

• A tweet that cost the stock market $136b in one hour
• A request for crowd sourcing images which falsely identified someone as a terrorist
• Email scams that steal billions from naive elderly
• A search engine company gathers and sells private information

NYSE

An excerpt from an article in the weekly ‘Institute for Global Ethics’ newsletter:
A fake message on Twitter that momentarily sent the stock market plummeting last week has raised ethics questions not only about phony messages but also about the automated trading systems that are programmed to dump stocks when search engines detect bad “news.” The New Statesman reports that a phony tweet from a hacked news agency account purported that the White House had been attacked and President Obama injured. “Within six minutes the Tweet was read by two million followers, re-tweeted 1,181 times and sent the Dow Jones Industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index tumbling 1 per cent (erasing $136 bn) and dramatically weakening the dollar. Spectators rushed to the White House to see … absolutely nothing,” writes the New Statesman. The incident, reports Bloomberg, highlights the responsibilities of social media to improve security as well as the potential for out-of-control trading programs, unsupervised by humans, to tank the economy — even if only temporarily. Notes Bloomberg: “For all the concern over cyber warfare and the need to fend off sophisticated state-sponsored hacking attacks, here’s a discomforting thought: Apparently all you need to disrupt the world’s biggest economy is a stolen Twitter password.”
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We have unleashed a vital and critical new age of communication and information capacity. But we have not yet figured out how to regulate, protect and prosecute major abuses of these new digital tools.

As we bushwhack our way through the unknown risks and potential abuses of our new digital age – What do we need to learn in order to be safe and successful?
– as individuals
– as companies
– as countries
– as a global community?