Election analyst comes up with novel use of retweets

Posted on July 16, 2020

 

This morning in the UK, we woke up to the news that several high-profile Twitter accounts had been breached in what is being described by many media sources as the social media site’s worst ever hack. Although serious for Twitter, the situation also led to some comedy and innovation.

Some of the world’s biggest names in politics (Barack Obama and Joe Biden), business (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Apple) and showbiz (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian) were among those whose accounts tweeted a Bitcoin scam late last night in UK time.

This led Twitter to take the unprecedented step of locking all accounts verified with a blue tick, leaving them unable to post tweets. However, the out-of-the-box thinking of one US blog editor showed that it is still possible to communicate on Twitter without the ability to tweet.

Twitter did not stop blue tick accounts from retweeting, and this opportunity was exploited by the founder and Editor-in-Chief of opinion poll blog FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver, who realised he may be able to get a message across using other account holders’ words.

Silver headed to the Twitter account @everyword, which tweeted every word in the English language one by one between 2007 and 2014. By retweeting four of the account’s tweets, Silver was able to reproduce the message “poll shows democrat leading”.

Another celebrity who found a creative way around the Twitter blue tick blackout was rapper Lil Naz X, who created a new account without a tick. Impressively, the account managed to notch up over 27,000 followers within eight hours.

For Twitter, the whole episode was less fun. CEO Jack Dorsey described it as a “tough day” for the company, while the Twitter Support account has detailed what it knows about the breach, and the actions it has taken, in a series of tweets.

At Engage Web, the incident reminds us of two points – the importance of secure passwords, and the potential value of careful use of retweets. For advice on both, speak to us today.

John Murray

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