The Problem With Computers Running the World


Last week, the Associated Press Twitter account was hacked and a false claim was made about the White House being attacked. Immediately as a reaction, the stock market took a dip of nearly 100 points. Most analysts claim that this was actually due to computer error: software that scans the news and automatically makes decisions based on key events. As they say, it’s easier to gamble with other people’s money rather than your own.

Each day, millions of messages are sent automatically. This includes spam email, twitter updates, news feeds, and more. Some of these are purposely malicious, such as people trying to phish private information or install malware. Other times, it’s just a careless mistake on the part of the communicator. I’ve seen bad contact info be linked to, wrong dates/URL’s, poor sales pitches, and other unfortunate mistakes.

Let’s look at two examples that I encountered this week:

1) Lazy sales pitch. 

Several days ago, I came across the following message in my email:


Normally, my spam filter catches this sort of thing. I was actually so annoyed, I wrote them back, saying that I knew for a fact that they did no such analysis on my website or even bothered to search information about The Slants. If they did, they would see 2.4 million results, most of which matching my site. In fact, you have to go to page 11 of Google’s search results until you find a listing not related to our brand. It amazes me that this self-proclaimed “Online Strategist” couldn’t figure that out.

Lazy, easy mistakes are the worst of all because it makes you look like an idiot. In fact, they would have been better off just pitching the service rather than trying to look clever and using a false claim (especially since every other “online strategist” junk mail I receive claims the exact same thing and uses the same generic language).

2) Oops! You left your pre-scheduled tweets on!

scheduled01The second example, of an automated mistake that is surprisingly common in social media, is the automated, pre-scheduled tweet.

Today, I saw a tweet from an education resource website, claiming “6 Legit Ways to Win a Free iPad.” When I clicked through and found this article, I noticed that it was three years old. In fact, every “legit” promotion has been expired for 3 years. It’s an account that I follow and I often see repeated tweets, so they most likely accidentally left this pre-programmed tweet run…for three years. Oops.

I’ve found that to be the case with numerous brand social media accounts, including several who had some inappropriate social media updates minutes within the Boston marathon bombing. If you’re going to be using pre-scheduled tweets, screen them on a regular basis: use an editorial calendar.


People fear computers taking the world but really, it’s human error in programming that causes the biggest mistakes. We do live in a fast, connected world but let’s not forget to use our brains and hearts to carefully look over messages. In a rush to gain the most dollars, you might actually end up more losing than you hope to save.



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