How a Tweet Toppled the US Stock Market in Seconds

by Nick Cicero on Apr 23, 2013

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AP Fake Tweet Hacked AccountYesterday, social media controlled the stock market .

A breaking news tweet was posted to @AP, the Associated Press’s main account, reporting two explosions had gone off at the White House and President Barack Obama was injured.

The fake tweet, racked up thousands of retweets and instantly sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 140 points.

The graphic from MarketWatch below shows the series of events as they unfolded synced up to DJIA data.

MW-BB850_fake_t_20130423190826_MG

Typically when we report on Twitter accounts being hijacked, it’s usually somewhat benign, an embarrassment for the victimized brand (Burger King, Jeep and others come mind). But lately, we’re starting to see significantly more reputable accounts being hacked. Earlier this month North Korea was hacked, and over the weekend CBS’ accounts for 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, and a local Denver station all were compromised.

With the financial industry seemingly relying on breaking news coming from Twitter to base decisions, malicious incidents like this threaten the credibility and strength of a highly influential establishment.

This is easily one of the most bizarre scenarios ever seen as a result of one tweet. John Melloy of CNBC inerviewed one trader who simply said “The HFTs lost millions of dollars on this one.”

Traders often use sites like Seeking Alpha or StockTwits to follow social trends with publicly traded companies, and Twitter’s own CashTags have created more ways to follow and contribute information about any number of stocks online.

Still, most are typical users like you or I.

“How traders behave looks a lot like how the rest of us behave online when consuming information,” says Chuck Hemann, Group Director of Analytics for WCG Group.

“Most of us have a set group of sites that we consistently read and share, and traders are no different.” 

It has now become natural for trusted organizations to put out breaking news updates as headlines on their social networks, often times as they happen without a link to a full story for context.

When attackers get a hold of these audiences through hacking or phishing schemes, the misinformation they’re able to spread in an instant can cause serious shifts in the world as seen this week .

Though the market recovered in a matter of minutes, it is clear that investors are paying close attention to social media.

This means they can fall victim to false information from trusted “breaking news” sources just like you, I, or your coworker can.

“Ultimately it comes down to the credibility and veracity of the person or organization behind the Tweet.” adds Rocco Pendola, Director of Social Media for TheStreet.

How do you verify “breaking news” online for yourself?

Post Author

Nick Cicero is the Editor at Social Fresh and a Digital Marketing Consultant. Formerly of Expion and Livefyre, Nick has experience building social campaigns for Sony PlayStation, Winn-Dixie, Eminem, Teen Vogue and more. He’s a fan of playing...