Category Archives: Twitter Trolls
Social media is here to stay, social media can have a positive use in the classroom.
Social media engages and encourages sharing of ideas and research material if used appropriately.
By viewing this simplified Slideshare presentation you can see the power of social media and also have a contact point should social media be abused in the classroom or anywhere else.
It has been reported recently that a student who died in a blaze which ripped through a Brazilian nightclub recently that killed in excess of 200 people posted a message on Facebook pleading for help. This would not be the first instance that someone has resorted to social media to call for help.
It is well known that it can take hours to write a good news article or blog post, 30 minutes to write a breaking news article, and even 5 minutes to write a couple lines to break the story, however, with status updates, it takes a matter of seconds, therefore social media and in particular Twitter can break a story in a matter of seconds. Ever wondered why the media follow you as soon as you follow them on Twitter? Generally you will find that in a small backroom within media HQ, a social media manager will be monitoring everyone’s tweets to try and capture that elusive scoop.
We can all remember when within minutes of US Airways flight 1549 ditching in New York’s Hudson river, cyberspace was buzzing with the news. Within seconds, Emails, Twitter messages, mobile phone photos and hazy videos about the crash flitted across cyberspace.
We really have entered a paradigm shift as identified by Rene Ritchie in his 2009 blog post, where he asked the question, “Have we entered a paradigm shift?” Ritchie stated, “…it happened with telegraph, with radio, with television, with satellite… is it happening again with the iPhone and Twitter?” (Ritchie 2009)
Several years since Ritchie’s observation I would say we have entered a paradigm shift and now we must ask, are we now in a mindset where we update statuses via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms before we make a conscious decision to call emergency services via 000 (Australia) 911 (USA) or 999 (UK)?
As reported in the Huffington Post on 28 January 2013, Twitters second transparency report was released last week and the report disclosed that 1,009 requests for Twitter account information was received by Twitter from July 2012 to December 2012.
Twitters Manager of legal policy, Jeremy Kessel, said in a recent blog post that: “It is vital for us (and other Internet services) to be transparent about government requests for user information and government requests to withhold content from the Internet,” where he believed that: “These growing inquiries can have a serious chilling effect on free expression — and real privacy implications.”
Under US law, Twitter is often asked to hand over data without warrant under the 1986 Electronic Communication Privacy Act where the requests are usually for E-Mail addresses associated with the Twitter account.
It is interesting to note in the Transparency Report that Twitter received requests from almost 30 countries for user information and almost all were denied as Twitter believes that it is under no obligation to hand over information to foreign governments because almost all of its servers and employees are in the US.
However as announced recently, Twitter is planning to open an office in Australia in 2013, and as they will have an Australian presence they may well find requests from local law enforcement agencies being served on them for information.
Will Twitter be a ‘good corporate citizen’ and comply with Australian requests or will they ignore such requests by saying that all of its data is stored offshore and therefore not subjected to Australian laws?
Recently in a radio interview, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy voiced his frustration, where he said: “My department has been trying to get in touch but they (Twitter) have no Australian presence,” and it is well known that these frustrations are held by many government and law enforcement agencies across the globe.
Maybe the Australian office will be the solution or will Australian authorities have to continue to rely on the Mutual Assistance In Criminal Matters Act 1987 (Cth), which from experience can be a very slow process that requires requests being made by the Australian Attorney Generals Office to member states.
Mutual assistance is an important tool in obtaining evidence for the investigation and prosecution of transnational crime, particularly drug trafficking, fraud, money laundering, child pornography and other child exploitation offences and terrorism offences.
As outlined in the Australian Attorney Generals Mutual Assistance In Criminal Matters legislation summary, mutual assistance is the process countries use to obtain government to government assistance in criminal investigations and prosecutions. Mutual assistance is also used to recover the proceeds of crime. Mutual assistance to and from Australia is governed by the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 (Cth) (the Mutual Assistance Act).
Australia can make requests to any foreign country and can receive requests from any foreign country where countries assist on the understanding that they will receive assistance in return when the need arises and the process is assisted by over 25 bilateral mutual assistance treaties to which Australia is a party.
Overview of the Mutual Assistance Process
Overall, it will be interesting to see how Twitter will operate their Australian office and most importantly how will they deal with law enforcement requests for user information.
Australian Attorney Generals International Relations 2013, http://www.ag.gov.au/Internationalrelations/Internationalcrimecooperationarrangements/MutualAssistance/Documents/Mutual%20assistance%20overview.pdf accessed 28 January 2013.
Social media in particular Twitter and Facebook have been heralded as excellent communication mediums to pass on critical information to the masses during natural disasters and critical incidents. However, recent events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook massacre and Australia‘s bush-fires and floods have seen social media being used by persons both innocently and maliciously to spread misinformation about the events.
The results of unverified information can lead to:
- Mass panic or hysteria
- Unnecessary evacuations that clog up roads
- Overuse of telecommunications services
- Looting and
- Anti social behavior.
Overall the three main groups of people who communicate misinformation are either:
- Innocent parties who have good intentions and believe they are passing relevant information to their followers for their well being
- Persons with malicious intent
- Persons who believe in their mind it is just harmless fun
One notable instance that could have led to all of the above points with regards to unverified ‘Tweets’ was the recent ‘Tweet’ and ‘Re-tweet‘ of a large water ‘spout’ off the coast of Australia that was re-tweeted during the current storm and floods crisis in Queensland, Australia.
Undoubtedly the ‘Re-Tweet’ that was from a well known sports person with in excess of 50,000 followers was sent with the best intentions at heart and it was even inadvertently ‘Re-Tweeted’ by a local newspaper.
Within minutes of the Australian sporting star Re-Tweeting this image some of the persons ‘followers’ advised that is was from a previous storm and is not related to the current threat. As a result the sporting person apologized and posted a retraction.
This incident clearly shows how persons and even the media itself can set off a chain of events that can impede emergency services in the region.
Additionally the anxiety it causes innocent third parties also compounds the stress levels that may be being experienced if they were from the area and may result in them feeling bad for passing on such information.
Worst case scenario would be persons evacuating or first responders taking action to assist local residents and having an accident as a result of the social media posting.
Overall such Tweets that started out as a ‘joke’ or even as a malicious act have a far reaching ‘domino’ effect that remain in ‘cyber space’ permanently.
History Of Calling For Help
Having grown up in inner city Melbourne, Australia I can still recall the old red ‘Firebox’ across from my house in the late 1960′s early 1970′s. These ‘Red Fire’ boxes were connected directly to the local fire station and hardly a week would go by without a local rascal breaking the glass and pushing the ‘Fire’ button before running off.
Time and time again the fire trucks would respond only to find no one there to report a fire.
Over time, first responders relied on the home telephone as a means in which they would be alerted to calls for assistance and this allowed for habitual ‘prank’ callers to be identified and dealt with by the law where necessary.
The home telephone or ‘land line’ as it is often referred to also allowed emergency services to utilize caller id to verify the location of the caller and this reduced false alarms to a limited degree.
Analogue Cell/Mobile Phones
Then in the late 1980′s early 1990′s analogue mobile/cell phones were starting to become popular and were being used to call emergency services and like the home telephone were on occasions being used to make ‘prank’ calls with false alarms being called in at an alarming rate.
Emergency services responded over the years with limited education programs and the odd prosecution of offenders and this had a limited effect on false alarm call rates.
However, with the advent of digital cellular phones, pre paid sim cards, illegal sim cards and international sim cards, calls to first responders are being made with limited detection or prosecution of habitual offenders.
Additionally the digital network is also compounding the effect of not only contributing to caller anonymity, it also contributes to persons with fictitious social media accounts communicating anomalously
Social Media and Disaster/Emergency Communication
It has recently been reported in the media both in Australia and the United States that social media channels like Twitter and Facebook have resulted in alarming levels of false reports being made by persons with regards to natural disasters, critical incidents, fake celebrity deaths/arrests and even the collapse of publicly listed companies.
Not only has digital communication anonymity contributed to such communication becoming common place so too has the ease in which persons can create fake accounts either from within their home country or via a third party overseas in countries like India and south-east Asia. For security purposes I will not reveal how accounts can be created offshore, apart from stating that it is now quite common for such accounts to be set up with total anonymity and combine this with anonymous ISP addresses and emails that cannot be traced or self destruct within seconds of being opened and you have a communication medium that allows for a proliferation of false Tweets and postings.
The only way to reduce such activity is to throw the full weight of the the law behind telecommunications legislation and enact special legislation that relates to malicious false reports that can lead to emergency services responding or causing undue stress or anxiety on persons who read such postings.
Additionally as posted in earlier Cyber Guardians Online blogs time has come for a 100 point identification system for all social media accounts similar to financial institutions under Anti Money Laundering-Counter Terrorism Legislation requiring customers to verify their identity.
Only then, can we educate and inform social media users of the power of social media when used appropriately to inform of imminent dangers and conditions and how malicious activity will be investigated by authorities and appropriate penalties handed out.
With 2013 just hours away, now is the perfect time to sit down with your children and have a family round table and review their social media activity and open communication channels to make sure that all their activity is safe and most importantly enjoyable for them.
Awareness is the key to online safety and by being aware of all the possible dangers out there in ‘cyber space’ places you in a good place to sit down and openly discuss the dangers that may lurk in the world of ‘cyber space’. These dangers are more than just physical threats, they can even be psychological threats and threats from unscrupulous spammers who flood our networks with pornographic links and the like that place material that if sold at our newsstands to minors would be deemed illegal.
Having a thirteen year old daughter who is an active social media ‘early adopter’ I am all too aware of how easy it is now for children to be exposed to these dangers and illicit images and as a parent it is paramount that open communication is maintained to make sure her safety online.
Australia‘s leading and largest telecommunications provider Telstra have an excellent ‘Teenagers & Young Adults’ internet safety page located at http://www.telstra.com.au/abouttelstra/advice/internet/teenagers-young-adults/ that reinforces what most of us have already shared with our children but it is always good to refer back to regularly to make sure that no one in the family has become complacent. The following is a summary of Telstra’s Internet Safety advice:
- Be careful about talking to people you meet online. Not everyone is who they say they are.
- Don’t post, send or share anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, future employers or someone who may be making unwanted advances towards you to see.
- Remember what you post online stays online for a long time – so think before you click!
- Keep your private information private – do not give out personal details online like your birthday or address, even on social networking sites like Facebook.
- Your username and password should belong to you, and only you.
- Remember to change your passwords regularly. Passwords should be completely random and unique, but still memorable. Try using numbers and letters.
- Don’t leave a computer whilst your account is still logged in – anyone could start using it.
- If you wouldn’t say something to someone offline then don’t say it online.
- Monitor your online and mobile usage. Not all content you view online is free to browse. If you’re with BigPond, look out for green dot content as it doesn’t count towards your download limit. Look at your usage meter regularly or think about getting a pre-paid account.
- If you feel like you are being bullied talk to someone you trust – don’t deal with it on your own. Your parents, teacher or even the Kids Helpline can help you. You can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 – it’s Australia’s only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for people aged between five and 25.
Friends Fans Likes Followers & The Dangers
Across all social media networks a common perception is the more ‘friends, fans, likes and followers’ one has the more popular they are individually or if the social media page is for a business they appear to have an extended reach in society. However, it is here that the dangers can hide beneath the façade of ‘friend, fan or follower’.
How many of you would meet a person in reality and instantly call them a friend? Yet online people tend to ‘friend’ at a drop of a hat with little or no due diligence performed with regards to checking out who they are actually ‘friending’. Yet time and time again cyber safety warnings constantly remind us all to on friend those we really know.
This area would have to be one of the toughest to reinforce with your children and it is here that your New Years resolution with your children should consider consisting of a regular informal chat over dinner, breakfast or any other time where you actually sit down with your children and discuss what is happening in the world of Facebook and the like. Incorporate social media activity where they openly discuss with you their ‘new friends’ and I would suggest having an informal policy with them that they quarantine all new ‘friend’ requests until you all sit down for your regular family discussion and really identify how well they really know this person or persons.
How you approach this area is most important and I honestly believe if you sit down and talk generically about ‘new friend’ requests regularly without making them feel like they have to tell you all the details of how the request may have come about it is a good way for them to feel like they can open up and discuss the key events surrounding the new friend. At this point you can reinforce how it is ok not to ‘friend’ everyone initially and to just wait until they feel really comfortable with ‘friending them if it is an appropriate person in their network.
Twitter is an excellent business marketing tool and its use with teenagers is increasing and so are the dangers of ‘followers’ either gaining access to your childs personal ‘tweets’ or ‘spamming’ them with links to illicit sites that promote pornographic images and the like.
Once again open communication is the key where you highlight to your children that the amount of ‘friends, followers or fans’ is not a social indicator as to how popular they are. All Twitter accounts for children should be set as ‘private’ and all follow requests should be vetted carefully. Advise your children that the latest trend in social media and Twitter is the ‘Social Imposter’ who impersonate celebrities and the like and if they want to allow a ‘celebrity to ‘follow’ them it is best to look for the Twitter ‘verification’ tick next to their name. Again, it may pay to let them know it is most likely the marketing machine behind the celebrity that is ‘following’ them and not the real teenage heart-throb.
Instagram is virtually ‘Twitter’ with pictures and all your children’s accounts should be set to ‘Private’ and similar ‘follower’ vetting that is applied to Twitter should apply to Instagram following requests. Spam posts are on the increase in Instagram and whilst they are trying to implement safeguards to protect the user experience, your children’s accounts are still vulnerable to unscrupulous persons trying to have your children view their sites.
Encourage your child to share all friend, fan and follower requests with you and if not all at least the ones they feel are a little dubious. Sit down with them regularly and reinforce the importance of online privacy and security and how you really appreciate that they are sharing with you their online activity and that you trust them and value the way in which you all can sit down and discuss the online environment.
Social media is here to stay with constant instantaneous connectivity consuming our teenagers at some would say are alarming levels. As parents we all need to keep abreast of the current trends to ensure we are all aware of any dangers that may lurk behind each social media platform.
Cyber Guardians Online constantly monitors the trends in social media and any threats will be shared with our ‘followers’. Feel free to share this blog post with friends or family if you feel it was helpful and should you subscribe to our blog you will be updated with current trends and threats across all social media platforms.