Swine flu: Twitter’s power to misinform

I think it’s only a matter of time
before that the next generation of cyber-terrorists – those who are
smart about social media, are familiar with modern information flows,
and are knowledgeable about human networks – take advantage of the
escalating fears over the next epidemic and pollute the networked
public sphere with scares that would essentially paralyze the global
economy. Often, such tactics would bring much more destruction than
the much-feared cyberwar and attacks on physical – rather than
human – networks.


Let’s just do some thinking about what’s possible here. One of the least discussed elements in the
cyber-attacks that struck Estonia in 2007 was psychological
operations. There was, for example, a whole series of text messages
aimed specifically at Estonia’s vast Russian-speaking populations
urging them to drive their cars at 5km/h at a specific time of they day;
quite predictably, this led to a hold-up in traffic (you can watch a
TV report in Estonian about this here).
Thus, a buy-in from the most conspiracy-driven 1% of the population
may be enough to stall traffic in the entire city. We could easily expect even more devastating consequences from the public scares generated by global pandemics. This is the reason why the current wave of Twitter-induced speculation – and manipulation – are worth paying attention to…

I found this to be a very interesting piece. Yes the thought of the swine flu is scary to many… but if you read through some of the #swineflu twitter stream it is even scarier how much mis-information is out there. Should the CDC or the WHO *own* the stream in instances such as this?

What is the potential for twitter, FB, etc to *cause* or enable mass *networked* panic when mis-information abounds about a potential worldwide pandemic??

I wonder what Clay Shirkey would have to say about this? With the loss of print media and thus the resultant loss of qualified journalists,—looking for actionable, vetted information in a twitter stream could prove to be a formidable task.


About hjluks

A busy Academic Orthopedic Surgeon, Digital Strategist, Chief Medical Officer and father... intently and efficiently navigating the intersection of Social Media and Health Care.
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