“Presidential Alert” and the Misuse of URL Shortener

I generally try to stay away from the media and this has been true for at least 8 years. But the situation is so challenging and urgent that you have to act right away by sharing the lessons everyone has learned. This is a short video interview by the LTN, the largest circulated daily paper published in Taiwan. The editor was interested in hearing the story after the “Presidential Alert” was issued on Feb 8 to EIGHT MILLION PHONES all at once in northern part of Taiwan.

The underlying technology is called “cell broadcast” as commonly understood. This case is critical because it involved the famous cruiser line that caused Japan much trouble in February: the Diamond Princess.

[…cutting my original obeservation short…]

It wasn’t the first time that the government made a minor or seemingly trivial mistake, but given the scale of the event, it could have created unimaginable harm. An unclear string of URL, which at that time was hooked to a famous URL shortener service, was included in the Alert. Given shopping scams are rampant in Taiwan and the URL shortening was one of the techniques scammers used, many people receiving the alert had confusions over whether the “urgent message” was authentic or not. Things like this can be avoided.


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