When Twitter Disinformation Crosses the Line

When Twitter rose to power, giving anyone with an Internet connection the ability to post memos on a massive online bulletin board, everyone knew misinformation would spread like summer wildfire.

Over the years, viral tweets have prematurely killed off Gordon Lightfoot, Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman, among other celebrities. Disinformation damaging to corporate reputations also quickly became a nuisance.

But, in general, Twitter rumors have remained relatively harmless to society at large. On Monday, that changed. When a Tweet purportedly from a reputable news organization said the president of the United States had been murdered, the false report became a national security matter.

"Hackers sent out several malicious and false Tweets claiming that President Obama had been assassinated. Those reports were incorrect, of course, and the president was spending the July 4 holiday with his family at the White House," Fox News Digital announced.

"FoxNews.com alerted the U.S. Secret Service, which will investigate the hacking and do 'appropriate follow up,'" the article said, citing George Ogilvie, the service's spokesman.