“Could a Tweet Start a War?” – Implications of the 2020 Twitter Hack
On July 15, 2020, the social media world received a shock as a number of high-profile Twitter accounts were hacked in what Twitter referred to as a “social engineering attack”. Among the targets were the verified accounts of billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, as well as major political figures Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The coordinated attack has been identified as an elaborate Bitcoin scam, with the hacked accounts all sharing a variation of a similar message promising the public doubled funds in return for sending $1,000 Bitcoin within a 30 minute window.
Twitter responded rapidly, removing the false tweets and suspending activity on a number of verified accounts while launching a full investigation. However, the incident has raised a number of concerns regarding cyber security and the potential dangers of a significant social platform with a major public following being turned into a forum for a personal political agenda.
With debates surrounding the Coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement continuing to dominate the social and political spheres around the world, social responsibility for celebrities and influencers remains at an all time high. In a digital world where the line between fact and fiction is often blurred and information travels entire continents in the blink of an eye, the Internet does not forgive, and it never forgets. In this reality, social channels such as Facebook and Twitter carry significant political weight. Statements by influential public figures absolutely have the power to fuel controversy, incite public action, bring people together or deepen the divide.
According to Brandwatch, a total of 1.3 billion accounts have been created since Twitter’s inception, and there are approximately 330 million active monthly users, with 145 million users active daily. The combined public reach of the impacted accounts is extensive, with some of the largest audiences including Barack Obama’s 120.6 million followers and Bill Gates 51.2 million.
With this kind of reach, the potential for the rapid dissemination of false information, negative narratives and damaging statements is untold. Although President Donald Trump was not among the accounts accessed, users have highlighted the dangerous possibilities if ever hackers were to gain access to Trump’s account for more malicious purposes than a Bitcoin scam.
Twitter user @DotDotDot_John says, “A hacker could take over his account and say ANYTHING damaging both foreign and domestically. The possibilities are endless. The ramifications could be catastrophic.”
Another user, @Jar0fGhosts asks, “What if @realDonaldTrump’s account had been hacked, and a message was posted that the US is launching an attack on China, Russia, or North Korea? What would be their immediate response? Could a tweet start a war?”
As Twitter works to contain the situation and undo the damage of yesterday’s incident, the public continues to debate the frightening potential of social media as a political weapon, adding #twitterhacked to 2020’s already outrageous timeline.
For more stories, see Todayville Calgary.
Liberal budget bill passes in House of Commons after Conservative filibuster attempt
Parliamentarians passed the Liberal government’s budget bill today, rolling out new incentives for Canadians and support for Ukraine, while trumping the Conservatives attempt to block it all. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
The House of Commons passed the Liberal government’s budget bill today, which seeks to roll out vast new incentives for clean energy and expending dental care subsidies — despite a Conservative attempt to hold it up.
The bill passed 177 to 146 with the support of Liberals and New Democrats, while the Tories and Bloc Québécois voted against it.
The bill includes a new anti-flipping tax for residential properties, a doubling of tradespeople’s tools deduction and an enhancement to the Canada workers benefit, a refundable tax credit to help low income workers.
It also codifies sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, and raises tariffs on Russia and Belarus.
The Conservatives attempted earlier this week to delete much of the bill by introducing amendments eliminating 900 of its clauses, saying they want a plan to balance the budget amid projections that show no end to federal deficits in sight.
The Senate must also pass the budget bill before it can become law, and senators have already been devoting hours study to its provisions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
Stretched thin, parents have swath of options to save for children’s education
The rising cost of living has ramped up pressure on parents, who say it’s tougher than ever to save for their children’s post-secondary education, a new survey found. Graduates are silhouetted as they line up for a convocation ceremony at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, May 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
By Christopher Reynolds in Montreal
Parents are finding it tougher than ever to save for their children’s post-secondary education as the rising cost of living ramps up financial pressures.
But the mainstays of post-secondary saving — RESPs, especially — remain key tools, as do clear goals and plenty of planning.
Julie Petrera, a senior strategist for client needs at Edward Jones, said the first step is getting a handle on cost estimates, which can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the type and length of schooling and whether the child is leaving home.
Other considerations include whether family members, such as a grandparent or the child themself, will contribute and where education ranks on parents’ list of savings priorities.
“Are they paying for post-secondary education and saving for their own retirement and funding other expenses, like renovations and vacations?” Petrera asked.
According to an online survey of 1,000 parents with at least one child under 18 by Embark, a company specializing in education savings, some 73 per cent of parents said saving for college and university has been harder recently.
The survey also found just over half of respondents said they would go into debt to pay for their child’s education.
The Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) offers a tax-deferred investment account that has been used by millions. More than 481,000 students withdrew funds from an RESP in 2021, according to Employment and Social Development Canada.
Ottawa matches 20 per cent on the first $2,500 put toward an RESP each year, via the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), for a total of $500 per year, with higher rates available to lower income families. The lifetime maximum grant amount is capped at $7,200, while total contributions to RESP accounts are limited to $50,000 per beneficiary.
Low income families may also be eligible for the Canadian Learning Bond, which does not require RESP contributions.
RESP beneficiaries in British Columbia may be eligible for an additional one‑time $1,200 grant, while those in Quebec can enjoy a refundable tax credit with a lifetime maximum of $3,600.
“The RESP is great. It is designed to help with affordability,” Petrera said. “But on the flip side there are some restrictions on these plans … on who can withdraw the funds, when they can withdraw them and why.”
RESPs can comprise a major part of a family’s education funding, but should not be viewed as a “standalone” plan, Petrera said. Non-registered investment accounts offer a supplementary option.
“There are no grants associated, they are fully taxable, but they have no restrictions. You can put money in up to any amount and withdraw at any time for any reason,” she said.
A tax-free savings account provides another vehicle. Students themselves can’t open one until they reach 18, but parents or grandparents can use their accounts to help save.
“My advice on that would be to work with an adviser or work with a professional that understands the pros and cons and the ins and outs of all of these plans to determine what is the best mix to maximize what the client’s objective is,” Petrera said.
Automatic contributions toward a plan are a simple, effective way to build a nest egg.
“We think that if each pair can make 50 bucks a month (per person) of contributions, they’ll get $37,000 by the time their kids hit 18 and go to post-secondary school,” Embark CEO Andrew Lo said.
He stressed that parents should educate themselves about education. One in three polled by the company did “not know enough to even guess” how much post-secondary schooling costs.
Erika Shaker, director of the national office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said costs are going up and everything’s getting more expensive.
She pointed to a shift in education funding from Ottawa a couple decades ago that prompted most provinces to download more of the cost onto students or, in the case of Quebec, “two-tiering” the price between in-province and out-of-province pupils.
The labyrinth of funding programs and rules sometimes acts as more of a barrier than a relief, she added.
“Student assistance programs are a patchwork, they’re messy, they’re opaque. They’re actually quite difficult to navigate and they can change midway through a degree,” Shaker said.
“We have gone to a user-pay model that disproportionately impacts — negatively — students who have to borrow, unfortunately, to pay for post-secondary education.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
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