Did Twitter Just Spark A Bank Run In Latvia?

Twitter has been a part of revolutions and riots – and now you can add a run on a bank to that list.

Stockholm-based bank Swedbank saw over a third of its ATMs in Latvia wiped out this past weekend, because of rumors spread on Twitter that the bank was in trouble.

According to the Wall Street Journal, rumors began on Twitter that claimed that Swedbank had shut down its ATMs in Latvia, that it’s branches in Estonia had all been closed, and that its chief executive had been arrested. None of which were true, but all of which sparked a panic.

Latvian citizens lined up at ATMs across the country over the weekend and withdrew 7 x more money that a typical weekend, at around 15 million lat or $29 million USD.

The panic was so serious that both Swedbank and Latvia’s Prime Minister had to respond.

A spokesperson from Swedbank told the Wall Street Journal that Swedish banks are stable and liquid, and that the risk of wider stability problems looks limited.

The Prime Minister’s office is taking the Twitter rumors very seriously, as they were created “in an effort to destabilize the situation Latvia,” which constitutes a crime in Latvia. A spokesperson said that they are working with police to find the source of the rumors.

There’s no word yet about whether this means they’ll be requesting information like IP addresses directly from Twitter.

This scenario highlights the negative side of real-time, instant, social communication that Twitter facilitates. During revolutions and uprisings, Twitter can be used to coordinate peaceful protests and share information about government abuses in order to shame them into stopping; but Twitter can also be used by nefarious types to spread false information, fast, and create instability across an entire nation. Twitter is a tool, and how it is used depends on the motives of those using it.

(Top image: wavebreakmedia ltd via Shutterstock)