Here in the US, the Dow recently tumbled almost 150 points in a “flash crash” caused by widespread digital panic. What was the cause of this panic? Twitter.
The bigger story is that someone hacked the official AP Twitter handle and tweeted a false report of a terrorist attack on the White House, which claimed that the President had been injured in said attack. This is significant in the grander scheme because the Dow essentially measures the health of the US economy and a hit of this magnitude means lots of people (deserving or otherwise) needlessly lost a lot of money in nanoseconds.
There are claims that nearly 70% of trading is done via “high frequency trading” or “HFT,” which employs a trading algorithm that crawls reputable news sources (and social media) and executes auto-trades based on what the crawl produces. In layman’s terms, a robot is reading the news and if it doesn’t like what it reads, it hits the “sell” button. Something like a Twitter hack causing a flurry of selling is a dangerous game to play, especially when most traders don’t have access to social media during the trading day and can’t keep up/compete/compensate for the robo-trades.
The intersection of social media, web content, and the real world has been on the edges of our notice for years now, but we’ve been able to keep this information deluge at bay by denying the gravity of the social information ecosystem or writing things off as being “just trends in social media.” But with the advances in technology which allow robots to make decisions directly based on information they find in our digital world, decisions which impact the entire world’s economic health, social media is being very quickly legitimized in a big way. We should probably start paying closer attention to what we share, who we share it with, and the importance of accessing these networks. I recently wrote a post touching on how the security of your social media accounts was of tantamount importance to your brand reputation online. This example of a Twitter hack taking the Dow down 150 points is a not-funny-at-all example of how serious social media is getting in the real world.
I also feel very strongly that as a community of digital pioneers, we must work to knock down the walls of censorship within corporate organizations, if for no other reason than to protect our own interests. Social media and global trends are becoming just as important as major media. Computers are using web content to manage people’s fortunes. People in decision-making positions should logically have access to this firehose of information to make the best, most well-informed decisions they possibly can, regardless of how much HR considers this “time wasting.” This may be radical, and the enterprises with 5000 employees may think that I’m crazy, but I whole-heartedly believe that social media can help inform and make better decisions from entry-level to executive. Not only inform better decisions, but support the learning and growth of employees and professionals without any monetary or resource contribution by the company. Twitter was recently named the #1 learning tool for professionals in 2012. How much innovation and creativity are we missing out on because social media is blocked in many professional environments? How many opportunities are we missing? Think about it.
Regardless of whether you agree with the above or not, the reality is that social media and web content are influencing real-life, real-time decisions–and can have major impact on very important, life-changing things. Social isn’t just for sharing cat pictures anymore. People (and robots) are beginning to trust what happens and is shared on social media as a completely legitimate source of data. While this is a sign of respect for the social ecosystem and the people in it, we have to remember that with great power also comes great responsibility.
So what do you think? Should social media be allowed in corporate environments? Do you think the people making decisions in your life would make better ones when supported with data and different perspectives from social media? Argue it out in the comments!