[ISAD334] The Web of Influence

Foreword: As part of one of my modules for my final term of University, I’m required to make a blog detailing my ideas and findings. Any posts relating to this module will be tagged under ISAD334.

Despite being less than a month into 2012, one of the year’s biggest agendas already seems to be coming to the forefront as Governments increasingly try to legislate activity on the Internet. In the past couple of weeks alone we’ve seen the rise and fall of SOPA and PIPA as well as the ratification of ACTA, which lead to the resignation of one MEP from the European Parlament.

One of the websites which seems to fly in the face of legislation the most (outside of piracy websites) is Twitter, the micro-blogging service. On a number of occasions last year Twitter users found themselves skirting the law, most notably in the case of Ryan Giggs. In that particular case Giggs had taken out a super injunction to prevent the media from commenting on an extra-marital affair, however this did not stop over 75,000 Twitter users and a Scottish Sunday newspaper from naming him, making a complete farce of UK privacy laws in the process.

But how can we ascertain that a source on Twitter is genuine? How do we know that the information it provides is genuine, or that the user him/herself is trustworthy? While the Twitter account that outed Ryan Giggs and other famous faces, one of the tweets relating to an affair between Jeremy Clarkson and Jemima Khan was later strenuously denied. The twitter account in question was a throwaway, likely to help avoid any legal repercussions, however the overall accuracy of the information helped it to gain nearly 100,000 followers.

But could any one person simply create an account, post a couple of tweets about a topic subject and gain 100,000 followers? What qualities do people look for when trying to determine if an account and/or the information posted by it is genuine or not? And how does the ability to create a throwaway twitter account cause problems for pre-Internet laws? I will be examining this question over the coming weeks and will post my research and findings on this blog.

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