This article originally appeared on Utter Digital.
Twitter is a notoriously unforgiving landscape for mistakes, errors of judgement, or downright stupidity – those 140 character or less faux pas we’ve come to know as the #TwitterFail. You tweet at your own risk, and when you get it wrong you better hope nobody’s watching, because when the masses latch on to a Twitter gaffe, you could be in for a bumpy ride.
It’s not just the retaliation you may face on Twitter itself; every news organisation from the BBC to CNN, the Guardian to the New York Times have run stories featuring Twitter fails, so what happens on Twitter certainly doesn’t stay on Twitter.
2014 has given us a plethora of Twitter fails to laugh at, cringe over and vent our Twitter rage. From celebrities to big brands, law enforcers to charities, small businesses to the media… here’s a look back at the best (or is that the worst?) Twitter fails of 2014.
RTE’s ‘cure the gays’ crisis
The Irish media giant, RTE, started off the year with what appeared to be a blatantly homophobic tweet posted from one of its radio shows’ accounts (@TheGodSlot), asking if gays could be cured. Unsurprisingly, they were met with outrage from the Irish Twitter masses. A full scale Twitter battle ensued. RTE tried to defend the tweet, which was a promo for their upcoming show discussing the matter, and they got aggressive with the Twitter hordes baying for blood. The exchanges were priceless – a real lesson in how not to deal with a social media crisis. Eventually, the tweet was deleted and an apology was issued.
Read more about RTE’s Twitter fail
Mastercard’s PR gurus got it unbelievably wrong when they basically tried to bribe the press into promoting the brand as sponsors of the Brit Awards, and supplied them with drafted tweets to post. This was apparently the only way they would get press accreditation for the event.
The tactic backfired, with the media using Mastercard’s hashtag #PricelessSurprises to show the brand and their PR company what they thought of being told what to tweet.
And in true Paddy Power Twitter style…
Read more about Mastercard’s Twitter fail
Louise Mensch gets confused
The author and former UK MP, Louise Mensch, tweeted about the British Muslims she respected in February, after the verdict was delivered in the Lee Rigby murder trial. The problem was, one of these respectable ‘Muslims’, Sunny Hundal, is in fact Sikh.
Mensch has had a few other Twitter gaffes, as reported by Huffington Post – well worth a read.
The Colbert Report gets racist
American comedian and talk show host, Stephen Colbert came under fire in March following a seemingly racist tweet from the official account of his talk show, The Colbert Report.
The tweet prompted the hashtag #CancelColbert, which quickly trended as people called for the show to be axed as a result of the tweet.
The tweet was apparently intended to poke fun at racism following the decision of the Washington Redskins owner not to change the team’s ‘racist’ name. Comedy Central confirmed that Colbert himself had nothing to do with the tweet, claiming the account is completely separate and handled by the network.
US Airways’ filth
US Airways tweeted a disgruntled passenger back in April, and mistakenly included a very graphic picture of a naked woman with a toy plane where a plane was never intended to fly. Not the best way to handle a customer complaint! The airline apologised, claiming the error occurred whilst they were trying to flag the image as inappropriate.
And the Twitter responses were as amusing as they were vulgar…
I won’t be posting the uncensored image here, but if you really want to see it, Google it.
The boys in black and blue – #myNYPD
Hashtag hijacking is nothing new, with brands such as McDonald’s (#McDStories & #RonaldMcDonald) and JP Morgan Chase (#AskJPM) having suffered at the hands of hijackers in the past. In April, The New York Police Department saw their campaign hashtag, #myNYPD overtaken by negativity. They asked people to share photos of themselves with their officers using #myNYPD. What they didn’t expect was the barrage of images depicting police brutality that followed.
PayPal exec on the rocks
PayPal Exec, Rakesh ‘Rocky’ Agrawal learned the hard way that ‘drunk tweeting’ is a practice to be avoided. He was out drinking in New Orleans at a jazz festival when he started tweeting abusive and sometimes incoherent tweets. The strange tweets continued over the course of a weekend, with some concerned for Agrawal’s mental well being.
PayPal’s response suggested that Agrawal had been sacked, although he told Business Insider that he had resigned from the company before his Twitter meltdown began.
Ann Coulter’s a laughing stock
American conservative pundit Ann Coulter was guilty of a serious judgement error in May, when she mocked the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The hashtag was of course the world’s response to the kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Michelle Obama was among the high profile tweeters backing the hashtag, and Coulter’s response appears to be as much a dig at the first lady’s action as anything else. The Twitter world turned her mockery on its head, and soon Coulter was the butt of the jokes, with several memes of her photo popping up across Twitter.
JK Rowling – what a bitch!
Scottish based charity, The Dignity Project, tweeted a less than dignified insult about Harry Potter author JK Rowling after it emerged she had donated £1m to the pro-Union campaign, Better Together, prior to the Scottish independence referendum.
The tweet received criticism from both sides of the referendum camp, and The Dignity Project quickly attempted to distance itself from the tweet, blaming a hacker.
The Bonneville’s in poor taste
A new bar in London’s Hackney opened in June, but the opening night was cut short when the victim of a stabbing made his way into the bar. The attitude shown by the bar on Twitter left them wide open for criticism, as they were clearly more concerned about how the night’s events effected their image than they were about the stabbing victim.
Insensitivity is the new black
Orange is the New Black actor Jason Biggs took to Twitter in July to joke about the Malaysian Airlines disaster which saw almost 300 people lose their lives when a plane crashed in Ukraine. Biggs offered to sell his air miles, and Twitter lashed out at his insensitivity. At first, he defended himself and hit back, but later apologised and deleted the offending tweets.
The NYPD were back in the Twitter spotlight in July when Captain Thomas Harnisch sarcastically quipped about the death of a woman who fell onto the subway tracks when using her iPad. “Let me guess, driver’s fault right?” tweeted Harnisch, including a link to the story of the woman’s death. The tweet was directed at street safety advocate group TransAlt and Keegan Stephan of Right of Way NYC. Keegan quickly replied, showing his disgust at the tweet, only to be met by a response from the official 25th Precinct’s account showing further insensitivity to the situation. An apology was later issued.
Ian Botham (Beefy), former England cricketer, had his account hacked back in August, and the hacker shared a graphic image with the world. It’s not pleasant, so I won’t be sharing it here, but he quickly regained control of his account and deleted the offensive tweet. It had already been retweeted too many times, and tweets about the image made it a trending topic on Twitter.
Former England defender, Rio Ferdinand, was found guilty of misconduct by the FA following a tweet he published in September. The tweet was in response to a user who hoped QPR (Ferdinand’s current club), would sign a good centre back (Ferdinand’s position).
The tweet saw the defender receive a 3 match ban and a £25,000 fine. He was also ordered to attend an education programme.
The release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in Australia was scheduled for 9/11. Twitter took offense at the promotional poster tweeted by Paramount Pictures Australia, given the significance of the date. The scene was one of a burning skyscraper in the background – an acute reminder of the 9/11 atrocity for many tweeters it seems. The company removed the image and issued an apology.
DiGiorno’s hashtag hijack fail
DiGiorno Pizza really need to learn to read up on a hashtag and understand the meaning behind it before attempting to hijack it for commercial gain. They clearly didn’t do this when they decided to tweet using the hashtag #WhyIStayed back in September.
The hashtag was actually being used by victims of domestic abuse to tell their stories about why they stayed in the abusive relationships. DiGiorno swiftly deleted the offending tweet and issued an apology.
Patriots automation goes racist
Automation can be a valuable time and resource saving tool on social media, but when it goes wrong, it can be catastrophic. I’ve harped on before about how automating your tweets can be dangerous, and it seems New England Patriots fell foul of the automation trap in September. They launched a campaign to celebrate the fact that they were the first NFL team to reach 1 million Twitter followers.
Users simply had to tweet using #1MillionPatriots to get an automated thank you response with an image of their Twitter handle on the back of a Patriots jersey. Problem is, someone tweeted using a racist Twitter handle, and the result…
Donald Trump was the victim of a Twitter prank which saw him tweet a picture of notorious serial killers Fred and Rosemary West. One user asked Trump to retweet the image, claiming the couple were his dead parents, who were inspired by the billionaire. Trump was left looking the fool.
LG red faced
LG France decided to make the most of #Bendgate in September, when the new iPhone 6 hit the headlines for a design flaw which meant the phone was bending in the owners’ pockets. The tweet translates as “Our phones don’t bend, they’re naturally curved 🙂 #bendgate.”
The problem was, the tweet was sent from an iPhone, as spotted by some eagle eyed tweeters, and it was this gaffe which made the headlines and left LG red faced.
You say Malana, Naomi says Malaria
Autocorrect gone wrong is a constant source of amusement across the internet, and Naomi Campbell fell foul of the autocorrect mishap in October when she publicly congratulated malaria on it’s “Noble” Peace Prize. Of course, the gesture was intended for the real recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and education campaigner. The misspelling of Malala’s name may have been as a result of autocorrect, but confusing Alfred Nobel’s name with the word noble wasn’t.
October seems to have been the month of the autocorrect fail, as BBC reporter Louise Stewart also became a victim when she covered the Liberal Democrat’s conference in October.
Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem party leader, was not executed on stage, nor anytime since.
Man Utd “embarrassing” fans
The biggest football club in the world suffered a Twitter backlash in October, largely from its own fans. The club was tweeting about the upcoming match against Chelsea, and completely misjudged the type of content their fans want when the only comparison they could come up with was which of the managers was most searched for on Google. It was a cringeworthy tweet, and the fans really took exception.
Read more about Manchester United’s Twitter fail
Conservative MP Emily Thornberry was forced to resign after her error of judgement in November. She tweeted an image of a house in Rochester with a white van in the driveway and a St George’s flag flying.
The tweet was slammed as being condescending and snobby by certain media and other politicians, and Thornberry resigned a week later.
Twitter CFO’s Twitter Fail
Even the high flyers at Twitter are not immune from a good Twitter faux pas. Anthony Noto, Twitter’s CFO, tweeted what appears to have been intended as a private message in November.
There has been speculation that the tweet was in relation to an upcoming acquisition, but it just goes to show that no one is safe!
Sydney’s social media “goddess” slated for insensitivity
Tweeting during a tragedy needs to be handled very carefully – we’ve seen examples of brands and individuals who have got it wrong in the past. The recent hostage situation in the Lindt cafe in Sydney was one such situation. At a time when fear gripped the country, and people awaited news of their loved ones, any hint of trying to capitalise on the situation or get any sort of personal or commercial gain or exposure would be blasted as horrific on social media.
One social media teacher, and self titled “goddess of social media” bore the brunt of a vicious backlash when she published this tweet…
Papworth is not the only one who has been criticised for her tweets during the hostage crisis, as 3 News in New Zealand have reported.