'Crap detection': Ernest Hemingway and the Associated Press Twitter hack

'Crap detection': Ernest Hemingway and the Associated Press Twitter hack

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Another day and another high profile attack on the reputation of an organisation. This time it was the turn of the Associated Press. A false tweet posted by @ap this evening claimed that the White House had been hit by two explosions and that Barack Obama was injured. It knocked more than 140-points off the Dow Jones industrial average for a short period.

BBC news has the back story to the hack.

The Associated Press is the world’s oldest and largest news organisation. It prides itself on the accuracy of its content. Tonight it has suspended all of its Twitter accounts.

The security breach shows the need for greater levels of security such as two-factor authentication to be incorporated in social media platforms such as Twitter.

But it also shows the need to constantly question to accuracy and authenticity of media content. It’s an issue that Steve Earl and I explored in Brand Anarchy and is particularly critical issue for social forms of media because of the speed with which content is shared among networks.

Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, published in 2003, believes that social media literacy is critical for anyone using the Internet.

Rheingold is a critic, writer, and teacher; his specialties are based on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media.

He cites five competences that he believes are critical for any Internet user, namely attention, participation, cooperation, network awareness and critical consumption.

It is this latter attribute, namely critical thinking, or what Rheingold calls ‘crap detection’, that we should all have when searching and assigning credibility to content that we consume online and detect information tainted by ignorance, misinformation or deception.

Rheingold credits Ernest Hemingway with originally inventing the phrase ‘crap detection’ in an interview for the US magazine Atlantic in 1954.

Hemingway is reported to have said, “Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle in case the machine breaks down.”

It’s a quote that all consumers of social media would do well to heed tonight.

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