Tyranny of one wrong tweet-Never post anything while drunk

There are two cardinal rules of social media. First, never post anything while you are drunk and, second, before posting ask yourself if you can say the same statement in a face-to-face conversation.

But in a world where the number of likes, comments and re-tweets matter, whatever comes to mind and seems cool often goes to the virtual world — sometimes without a reflective pause or second thought before hitting the “send”, “post” or “enter” key.

It is only after a Facebook post or tweet is released into the cyberspace vortex that the benefit of hindsight may reveal how what you thought was a clever quip, genius comment or rib-tickling joke is actually in the realm of adjectives like stupid, stale, ridiculous, racist, outrageous, or tasteless.

And while many have got away with such misadventures, with nothing more than a little embarrassment, others have not been as lucky. Take Justine Sacco as an example.

Until last week, she was the communications director at American Internet company InterActive Corp.

But as she boarded a plane to South Africa last Saturday, she tweeted this: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
Ms Sacco had less than 200 followers on Twitter, but the message was re-tweeted so many times that thousands across the world read it and reacted with insults and sarcastic jokes.

Soon she was making news all over the world. Her desperate action of deleting the Twitter account was like locking the stable after the horse had bolted. It was a PR disaster for a PR practitioner that eventually led to her sacking.

In 2013, Kenya too has witnessed similar embarrassing goofs. It gets even worse when it involves an organisation’s official account or a well-known individual.

Deleting the tweet is never enough as people will have re-tweeted or taken screen shots. And claiming one’s account was hacked increasingly sounds like a lame excuse.

KIMAIYO’S GOOF

A famous one was during the four-day Westgate terror attack in September when Inspector- General of Police David Kimaiyo tweeted: “Taken control of all the floors. We’re not here to feed the attackers with pastries but to finish and punish them. IG”.

Although the tweet was later deleted it is still available on the verified Kenya Police account. The siege was to last four days and the fate of the terrorists is still not clear.  “We had our heads in our hands when we saw the Kimaiyo tweet,” an official in the Jubilee administration told British newspaper The Guardian. “What was he thinking?”

And after lawyers completed submissions during the presidential election petition at the Supreme Court on March 29 challenging the victory of Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, the K24 television station was forced to apologise after a tweet from its account implied that the judgment would go the president’s way.

“Supreme Court ends last hearing on a Good Friday. Finally tomorrow in their judgment they will uphold the elections – April 9th is holiday,” read the tweet. Later, the station’s executives claimed the Twitter account had been hacked.

NTV was also left with egg on its face in March after the traditional Latin Habemus Papam (“We have a Pope”) announcement was made to indicate the cardinals had agreed on a new head of the Catholic Church. “BREAKING NEWS:  Habemus Papam elected the new Catholic #Pope,” the station tweeted.

The tweet was later taken down, and it was clarified that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) had been elected, but it caused much mirth.

And in September, Citizen TV reporter Willis Raburu found himself in trouble when a tweet from his personal account purportedly revealed the identity of an ICC witness, which is an offence. The journalist, who later claimed his account had been hacked, attracted much criticism.

Meanwhile, controversial blogger Robert Alai flew into a Twitter storm in May when he gave his views on complaints of insecurity from residents of Nairobi’s Kileleshwa estate.

“I am down on my knees praying that people continue to be raped and robbed in Kileleshwa so they will wake up to the insecurity,” tweeted the man who has more than 100,000 Twitter followers. The criticism that followed forced him to delete the tweet. It sounded extreme even by his outspoken standards.

NATIONAL GRIEF

Not to be left behind in a supposed moment of national grief, nominated Senator Naisula Lesuuda tweeted in July: “RIP Joe Kadenge #Legend”.

The only problem was that it was not the legendary footballer Joe Kadenge who had died, but his son Francis Kadenge — also a football star.

And after the death of Fast and Furious star Paul Walker this month, Huddah Monroe, who is often described as a socialite, exposed herself to comments on her ignorance when she tweeted a condolence message “RIP Paul Walker! Real baller! No fake life, no poser, this is so sad!”

But it was sadder that her tweet was accompanied by the picture of American rapper Paul Wall.

Then there was the “RIP Matiba” tweet this month from a user who apparently confused South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela’s clan name “Madiba” with one that sounded like Kenya’s multi-partyism hero Kenneth Matiba, who is still alive.

Perhaps in 2014 it is important to heed the cautionary tweet in the wake of the Ms Sacco saga: sticks and stones may break bones, but words on Twitter can hurt you.-nation.co.ke

Inspector General of police David Kimaiyo speaking at a past function. Kimaiyo was one of the people who were caught up in the 2013 social media goofs. Photo/FILE

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