The New York Times reports that the elimination by Twitter of “blue check” marks signaling authenticity of any account on the social media platform has opened the door to multiple accounts impersonating government agencies, entertainment celebrities, and political figures of all persuasions.
Disinformation is rampant by postings from sources from Russia. Sudan, and other countries. Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, has dismissed complaints about these problems. The New York Times published a report documenting these developments as well as Musk’s justifications for his actions. He’s been unapologetic about charging fees for blue checks and Twitter offers them to anyone with an open checkbook.
Public Safety Agencies Face Risk of Fake Accounts on Twitter
The New York Times reported that six fake accounts on Twitter are posting false information on Twitter with each of them presenting themselves as the official account of the Los Angeles Police Dept. Similar problems affect multiple municipal agencies in New York City and Chicago.
The New York Times reported that Alyssa Kann, a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said Twitter under Mr. Musk was systematically dismantling safeguards that had been put in place over years of consideration and controversy.
“When there are so many things going wrong at once, it’s like: Which fire do you put out first?” she said.
“This is going to be chaos for emergency services,” tweeted Marc-André Argentino, a research fellow at the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization.
The newspaper reports that Mr. Argentino tracked examples showing an account impersonating the mayor of Chicago replying to one impersonating the city’s Department of Transportation. Another had New York City’s actual government-run account arguing with an impostor.
“Yes this is funny, let us all laugh,” Mr. Argentino wrote. “Now take two seconds and go back to any mass casualty incident in a major city, or a natural disaster, or any crisis/critical incident when people turn to official sources of information in times need & think of the harm that this can cause.”
Nuclear Utilities at Risk for the Effects of Disinformation
Many nuclear utilities have used Twitter to notify public safety agencies that there is a scheduled test of emergency sirens. Deranged individuals may try to impersonate either public safety agencies or the nuclear utility itself. It is plausible to expect disinformation will eventually be posted on Twitter about nuclear power plants by a fake “blue check” account.
A significant example of the impact of social media platforms being used to spread false information about operating reactors is the report in June 2011 that the Ft. Calhoun nuclear power plant had blown up. I documented this issue, the sources on social media of the disinformation reports, and the response of the utility to address public alarms.
The unrestrained use of fake accounts on Twitter, with or without blue checks, is a significant risk to nuclear power utilities relative to their ongoing communications with the public. This is an international problem driven by the global reach of Twitter’s user base.
Credible alternatives are needed to insure that public safety agencies and nuclear utilities can communicate routine or event related news to the public without the risk of their verified online identities being hijacked by bad actors.
Separately, due to increasing turmoil on Twitter, posting there by this blog for its Twitter feed of @djysrv, the news feed of the Neutron Bytes blog, is in hiatus and will be limited solely to the weekly URL from this blog.. For a listing of sources of daily nuclear energy news, see this page on this blog. https://neutronbytes.com/nuclear-reading-list/
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