The dark side of aggregating tags

An info-graphic on Flickr recounts the cautionary tale of the Conservative Party’s experiment in social media. They aggregated the #cashgordon tag, so that messages from Twitter with this tag would appear on their own site. The disaster that resulted was made possible by three technical errors:

  1. They didn’t filter content: anyone could use Twitter and the hashtag to write whatever text they wanted on the Conservative site.
  2. They didn’t filter out markup: users could style the content of messages how they wanted, e.g. 48 point high and they could embed images of their choice (including spoofs of the Conservative poster campaign).
  3. They didn’t filter out Javascript commands: users could insert a command redirecting the whole site to Labour, Rickroll or porn, which they promptly did.

Code-injection is something any developer should consider when building one of these services, and surely most do, but it’s nice to have a period reminder of what can go wrong when you miss out the necessary one or two lines of code.

One Response to “The dark side of aggregating tags”

  1. Issues In Crowd-sourced Twitter Captioning of Videos « UK Web Focus Says:

    [...] After all, as Martin Poulter has recently pointed out on his Ancient Geeks blog in a post on The dark side of aggregating tags the Conservative Party’s experiment in social media fell foul of, presumably, left-of-centre [...]


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