A big part of many of our digital lives today is Twitter. It’s hard to imagine a World Wide Web without the microblogging service that seems to be taking over the planet.
One of the biggest tech success stories of recent years, the Silicon Valley start-up has rocketed to fame to reach over 500 million users worldwide. Aussies have been bitten by the bug too – over 1.8million of us are logging on to share information with the rest of the Twitterverse.
Even I finally caved into the pressure and saw exactly how popular the service was when every decent variation on my name was taken, forcing me in the end to choose: @realamanchand.
The folks at Twitter have created a great platform to share information quickly and simply. It’s a fantastic way for us to stay in touch with our friends, provide snappy updates on our own lives and even consume media in real-time. But Twitter’s open, fluid nature may also expose unwary users to unnecessary risks.
Although users are able to lock their profiles so that only those given explicit permission can view their updates, most decide not to. This effectively means anyone can follow and view their updates, and send an @ message to them.
It seems that the magic of the # has caused us to completely change our behaviour and go against our natural instincts. Would you publish your phone number to the world, allowing anyone to send you texts or pictures? Probably not. Twitter effectively is the same thing yet we feel compelled to share as much information as we can and read everything that is directed @ us.
Just like anywhere else on the web where large groups of netizens gather, there are usually those who find it great fun to harass you online. These “Internet trolls” have made the headlines recently in Australia with Wests Tigers’ captain Robbie Farah and TV presenter Charlotte Dawson both on the receiving end of high profile and vitriolic Twitter-based attacks. Both urged others affected in a similar way not to be intimidated and seek police help if the abuse persists.
Online bullies have also been known to try and hack their victims’ Twitter accounts with the aim of posting shocking or libellous updates. We’ve probably all heard of this happening to big name celebrity Tweeters like Brittany Spears but in a recent survey 18% of Twitter users said their accounts had also been hacked.
It’s a darker side of the web we’d all rather see banished for good, but just like the real world, there’ll always be unruly elements out to make trouble. The thing to remember with Twitter is that everything you write is public, so it’s best to be cautious about what you put on there.
A few tips for happy tweeting:
- Be sparing with the personal info you reveal on Twitter
- Don’t use any personal info in your password – it could make it easier for a cyber-bully to guess. Use a combination of numbers and letters to make it as secure as possible and change it immediately if you think your account has been hacked
- Ignore the trolls, or if they persist, go to the police
I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.
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