Twitter celebrated its fifth birthday earlier this year. It has revolutionised the way people interact in the 21st century: being at the heart of both revolutions across the Middle East and the centre of a media and legal maelstrom in the UK regarding super injunctions. It, along with FaceBook, has become the mode of communication of choice for the “Google generation”. The appetite for both instant news and celebrity gossip have both proved insatiable and brought with it a whole host of dangers to both individual and organisation for the unwary and unprepared.
Twitter Tourette’s, to coin a phrase, is used in this context to describe a phenomenon which has been increasing on the Internet regarding a (seemingly unknown) compulsion to publicise private or inappropriate material online (not to make light of Tourette’s Syndrome, in which 10% of people with Tourette’s swear uncontrollably). Serious thought needs to be given to not only the use of social networking tools within the workplace, but training to employees as to how they use it within their private lives.
High Profile Cases:
Bomb ‘joke’ on Twitter results in conviction under the Communications Act 2003
On 6th January 2010 Paul Chambers, a 27-year old accountant, posted on Twitter a ‘joke’ regarding threatening to blow Robin Hood airport “sky high” . He was arrested at work a week later and subsequently convicted of an offence under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (for “sending a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”). Paul was fined £1,000 and lost his job as a result of the tweet, and lost his subsequent appeal against the conviction at Doncaster Crown Court.
Press Complaints Commission rules Twitter messages are “not private”
Sarah Baskerville, a Department of Transport official, filed a complaint to the press regulator, arguing that her tweets regarding comments about being her being hung-over at work were private for her 700 Twitter followers, and not meant for publication in the press (the Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday both reported this story). The Press Complaints Commission ruled that as Twitter was publically accessible and that the potential audience was actually much further than her own followers, (since messages on Twitter can be re-tweeted to others) the publication of the story in the press did not constitute an invasion of privacy.
IT Consultant unwittingly tweets details of the raid on Osama Bin Laden hide-out live
An IT Consultant, Sohaib Athar, living in Abottobad, Pakistan, was the first person to unwittingly tweet about the raid on the hide-out of Osama Bin Laden. He reported live as events unfolded that a helicopter was hovering over Abottobad, followed by a loud explosion. He pondered: “Since Taliban (probably) don’t have helicopters, and since they’re saying it was not “ours”, so must be a complicated situation”. Later that day, after the White House Press conference on the raid, it dawned on him he had tweeted the operation live: “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”. Within hours of his initial tweets his followers surged by over 15,000.
European head of Twitter indicates revealing to police details of Twitter users who broke superinjuction
Lawyers acting for a UK Premiership footballer, filed court papers against Twitter and a number of its members last week after they allegedly broke the terms of a “super-injunction” banning publication of details of his private life. Tony Wang, the new European head of Twitter, has indicated that it could give police details of users who broke the gagging order, in line with its global policy for dealing with legal requests. In a statement at the e-G8 forum in Paris, Mr Wang said that it was Twitter’s policy was to comply with local laws to hand over details where it was “legally required” to do so.
South Tyneside Council acts in US Court to reveal identity of Twitter users behind allegedly libellous statements
South Tyneside council went to court in California to request Twitter release details of the identity of five twitter users who were allegedly libelling a number of councillors at South Tyneside Council via Twitter. The “Mr Monkey” blog had made a number of accusations against the council leaders. Council spokesman Paul Robinson has revealed information has been disclosed by Twitter to its lawyers including IP addresses and email addresses.
A Tweet is a publication, not a private message!
Twitter should be regarded as a publishing platform, not a means of private communication. All the examples mentioned illustrate the dangers of the unguarded use of Twitter and social networking sites, from revealing the details of secret military operations; opening the way for legal action either by defamation or breaking the terms of a gagging order; uncontrolled release of new media into the press; or damage to reputation: corporate or private.
New e-learning Course
Excelgate Consulting has teamed up with Ira Winkler & VigiTrust to provide an e-learning solution training course: Security of Social Networks. The e-learning solutions can be run using a standard web browser and completed in stages at the participant’s pace.
Upon completion of the course, your employees will participate in a test to determine their awareness and upon passing the course will generate a certificate. On successful completion of the Security of Social Networks course, users will:
• Be able to distinguish between direct and indirect attacks from hackers and other unscrupulous individuals and how to avoid exposure to them
• Recognise the threats posed by seemingly inconsequential personal or confidential work information and identify the various ways in which criminals may exploit social networks
• Gain a good understanding of the main features of the major social networking sites, and how careless activity can impact negatively on corporate applications and customer sensitive information