Sep 1, 2009

The Twitter Panic of '09 [Shut Up, Twitter]

The NFL prohibited players from tweeting within 90 minutes of kickoff. The U.S. Open warned tennis players against posting "inside information." And Germany freaked out about election exit polls leaking on Twitter. Why all this fear of microblogging?

The common thread to these stories is a desire to keep secrets off Twitter. Sports officials are worried that indiscreet tweets will fuel a frenzy of gambling, while the Germans don't want voters improperly biased against perceived losers, or against turning out to vote for perceived shoe-ins.

But why not let the information run wild? Player tweets will feed free publicity in sports blogs; the better stories will make it up into the big media. Political parties, meanwhile, can spin online exit polls in such a way as to increase voter turnout, for example by saying the opposing candidate is suddenly doing better than expected, or that a lead might fizzle without a strong last-minute showing. Gamblers and voters, meanwhile, will have to guess which Twitter leaks are legit and which ones intended to deceive them. In the end it will mostly be a lot of confusing sound and fury, twisted for various self-promotional agendas. Just like the rest of Twitter.

(Pic: spike55151 on Flickr)

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