Twitter is coming in for a bit of stick today. It turns out that yesterday the world’s financial markets went into meltdown as a Tweet suggested that President Barack Obama had been injured in a bomb attack on The Whitehouse. It looked true enough because it was from the accredited Twitter stream of Associated Press. Suddenly, the Dow Jones fell by 100 points and the companies listed by Standard & Poor lost $136 billion.
Of course, it was a fake Tweet, with the Associated Press account having been hacked into by the “Syrian Electronic Army”. Now, the anti-Twitterati are in their element saying you cannot believe a word that is said on Twitter. If respected organisations like AP can be hacked into, just who can you believe on Twitter?
The problem is not Twitter; it is the world’s financial markets. In the “olden days” the financial markets were controlled by human beings. They would keep up to date with information about companies and business in general and consider things rationally. Even if they had to act fast, there was always their analytical brain helping them out.
Now, though, the financial world is controlled by automated systems. If a share price falls by just one pence, for some clients, the computer is programmed to automatically buy or sell – no human involvement. Much of the financial meltdown yesterday was due to automation which cannot think. It was only later on when human beings got involved, thinking “hang on a minute, is this really true” that order was restored.
It is not Twitter that is to blame, but a ridiculous business practice within the financial sector which appears to think that speed and automation are more important than consideration, reflection and thinking. Had these business practices been in place then Wall Street would not have been so panicked yesterday.
The same is true for any business, though. Reacting to Tweets, without thinking, adding comments to blog posts without consideration – these are all part and parcel of everyday life in many companies. Perhaps the reaction to the fake AP Tweet should be a lesson to us all; thinking is a really important business function that we sometimes do not do enough of.