Trendspotting: Heavy on the Spam

Posted on February 1, 2012 by Angie Argabrite

Newly single Ashton Kutcher tweeted about sleeping over with a girlfriend, the Huffington Post tweeted its affection for the New York Post, “Modern Family”’s Eric Stonestreet tweeted about miracle diet pills, and singer Nicole Scherzinger tweeted her support of Ron Paul, as did bands No Doubt and Rise Against. If any of these tweets left you scratching your head, it’s because all of them were the result of Twitter-account hacking. After reclaiming his Twitter handle, Kutcher let it be known: “OK Mr. Hacker, you only made one mistake. You hacked my Foursquare and I now know your address. Whoops … This is gonna be fun.” Companies, too, are feeling protective as usurpers find ways to hijack their social media sites. Modernist Cuisine’s Twitter appeared to extol the virtues of acai berries before its curator, Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer, removed the tweet this week. If even such a renowned tech guru can be Twitter-jacked, are any of our tweets safe? Yes, especially if we avoid clicking on suspicious links offering free gadgets or hilarious videos. “Social spam” is the most common way for a hacker to accomplish a Twitter takeover—think something along the lines of “Hey, check out this link! FREE IPAD!”—but it’s being weeded away by Twitter’s team of five “spam scientists.” These programmers have been tasked with decreasing the site’s percentage of spammy messages, currently at 1.5 percent (down from 11 percent in 2009). Celebrities may be fuming, but the rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief.

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