A New Lesson from @APStylebook

Posted by Monica Worsley

@APStylebook resumes tweets after hacking

The Associated Press Stylebook is full of valuable lessons for journalists. Its Twitter page highlights some of the thousands of entries found within this “journalist’s bible” and they regular appear as “AP Style tip” tweets.

However, the most recent lesson from the @APStylebook is valuable for more than just current and aspiring journalists.

A post on the @APStylebook Twitter account last Tuesday read “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barak Obama Injured.”

The tweet was false.

But the lesson about maintaining an online presence and password security were very real.

The Huffington Post reported that the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for hacking into the account and tweeting around 1 p.m., on April 23, 2013.

Because the Associated Press is considered a dependable source this tweet caused concern, which the company quickly quelled after acknowledging the tweet was false.

As a result of the event Twitter identified “news media organizations as ‘high value targets’ for hackers.” The social media site sent a memo to journalists and new media organization that included several suggestions of ways to keep accounts secure. A few of the suggestions are:

1. Never send passwords via email, even internally

2. Designate one computer to use for Twitter so the password is not appearing on multiple devices

3. Check for signs of compromise regularly to addresses potential problems

4. In the case of a hacking, contact Twitter immediately with copies of suspected phishing emails

5. Create a formal incident response plan

A complete copy of the memo appears at “Twitter Warns Journalists That News and Media Organizations Are ‘High Value Target’ For Hackers.”

I found this incident to be worthy of mention after the conversation it has generated nationally. I also think it is a great topic to remind our class what we learned at the beginning of our J70 course. When I read about this event I thought of our class discussion about maintaing a social media presence. We looked at examples of people tweeting on the wrong account and writing tweets that lack tact.

Did you hear about this incident last week? What was your initial reaction? Do you see any similarity in how a company might handle a public relations issue due to hacking and/or misuse of social media? Do you think the advice Twitter offered journalists and news media organizations sound advice for dealing with an account hacking?





5 responses to “A New Lesson from @APStylebook

  1. I didn’t see the AP Stylebook’s tweets last week, but I’m not surprised by the hacking. The media has always impacted the society, and therefore news organizations and people who reach large audiences will be targets for hackers. It’s unfortunate that this happened, but I think it worked as a reminder and wake-up call for all. It was also smart and kind of Twitter to have sent that memo. I think the AP handled it professionally and effectively, and as much as people love to criticize events like this, I think they are starting to be more forgiving.

  2. I think you’re right to point out that you need to make sure and keep your password information safe whether you are a big news organization or just an aspiring journalist. I am in the webpage design class right now and we just talked about this stuff a couple weeks ago with all of our site password information because WordPress had been hacked. A lot of people who use WordPress for their websites were using “admin” as their user names and it was easy for the hackers to figure out your password if your user name was the default. We talked about how important it is to make a unique user name and password because these type of incidents can clearly happen to anyone or any organization and it happens more often than we may think.

  3. I didn’t see the tweet, but I think the tips are very helpful. Especially just logging into your account on one device. I know I’ve logged in on pretty much all my friends devices this lead to some pretty obscene my-friends-think-this-is-so-funny tweets and statuses. I know this is on such a smaller scale, but I can easily see how this could be a huge problem for account holders with more outreach.

  4. Raquel Rivera

    I did not see that tweet nor did I hear about this! I find it interesting that huge companies like that can get hacked. But I think the advice Twitter gave them was good advice and something for us as journalist to keep in mind.
    I think AP handled it very well and it at least wasn’t an employee tweeting something horrible on the wrong account, yikes!
    But like you said, as we discussed in class, having a social media presence is very important but making sure your tweets, Facebook account, etc. are safe is just as important!

  5. I heard about this story from multiple news sources, and I felt pretty unsettled by it. I think you’re right in that this issue is a perfect example of how a organization’s brand is tied to their social media presence. Although I think the AP case is a little different than a smaller scale public relations gaffe, the same rules for rebranding apply. It was key that the AP was monitoring the account and was able to address the hacking right away. It could’ve been a real disaster if the account sat for a few days without anyone correcting the information.

    As for Twitter’s advice, I think it’s good that they’re trying to be proactive about an increasingly prevalent problem. I personally would have no idea to to combat cyber hacking, so I think these tips are a good start. However, I think it’s also important for major brands to have social media and computer experts on staff who could prevent or manage a crisis like this one.

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