CIO Symmetry

Jun 21 2011   1:46PM GMT

Twitter hoax reveals another shift in information landscape

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

If Twitter were a person, it would just be turning 5 next month (they are so cute at that age). But in Internet time, Twitter has already gone through rehab, a foreclosure and a losing custody battle over the kids.

But Twitter is still a good person, right? “There’s nothingĀ  intrinsically immoral about Twitter,” writes Virginia Heffernan of The New York Times. As we have seen with tweeting athletes and celebrities, and especially with disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, Twitter doesn’t kill careers — people do it to themselves.

The latest from the social media highlight reel is the Twitter hoax that was revealed last week. Erstwhile Tweeting celeb Amina Abdullah, aka the “Gay Girl In Damascus,” who was chronicling the political uprisings in Syria, was in reality an American male and his wife, who are living in Scotland, according to reports.

Social media scandals are no longer surprising, or even that exciting. What is interesting about this particular story was pointed out by my former colleague David Strom in his Strominator blog. He describes how an NPR reporter, Andy Carvin, tracked down the truth and broke the story — using Twitter and other social media tools to do it.

The lesson for all is being smarter about how to use social media tools. We have pointed out the great opportunities and opportunity costs of Twitter for business. But with social media in the hands of our country’s leaders, as Heffernan says, “we need more thoroughly digital minds – even if, like all minds, they periodically turn dirty – in public life.”

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