Could Twitter be harmful for your computer?

June 30, 2009 3:40:48 PM PDT
Besides allowing friends to follow your daily activities, inappropriate content, like links to pornography, can be sent to Twitter accounts, an alarming fact for parents whose children use the social networking site. Twitter allows people to post updates about their lives while allowing others to "follow" them, but just like an e-mail inbox, Twitter accounts can be sent links to inappropriate content.

Coffee shop owner Khon Lu uses Twitter as a business tool.

"I am a total believer in it because people follow you and they are genuinely good followers," Lu said.

Lu is currently using Twitter to get the word out about an upcoming art exhibition. But, while tweeting for customers, Lu is also dealing with an unexpected issue -- links to pornography.

"I was surprised," he said. "It caught me off guard."

The web site allows users to not just send out messages about their lives, it allows them to grant access to followers who will read those postings as well. It is the typically unknown followers that are sending the inappropriate links.

"The sex thing I really find disturbing," Lu said.

Twitter users can make their accounts private. If they do not, they open the door to anyone who chooses to send an inappropriate link. It's something parents may not know, but should.

"It has this look to it that says 'I am nice. I am friendly.' The word 'twitter' itself is very friendly," Jay Lee, host of local technology radio show "Technology Bytes," said. "It is something birds do. How can birds be bad?"

Lee says while the links are bad, clicking on them can take Twitter users to web sites that are loaded with spyware that will mine computers for financial information or give hackers access to e-mail contact lists.

"It might say it is pornography or something more innocuous like how to make money, but you do not know what is on the other side of that link," Lee said.

Computers will not be infected if the link is clicked on, but if it is accessed, it may lead to "the potential to scan your system for account passwords and account numbers," Lee said.

Twitter has a way to report spam, but making accounts private seems to help block many of the problems, so parents should consider finding out if their kids' accounts are private especially since computers may be damaged if a link is followed to an unknown web site.

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