Twitter is one of the most popular online social networking services. It enables the users to read and/or send text messages not exceeding 140 characters. These messages, known as tweets, are brief in content, faster than the speed of light, and effective like a double-edged sword. One can opt to tweet publicly or privately, and this is what has caused most famous Twitter gaffes. Not only a newbie but also a veteran is prone to a gaffe by writing something private and hurriedly making it public to millions of people just by sending it through a wrong mode. In order to gain business or fame, people have, at times, tried to link themselves with a current affair without duly considering the nature of the events with the consequent backlash instead of some positive feedback. A special feature of Twitter is re-tweeting or forwarding a tweet by the user to the followers. This is like panning or engrossing, and every new re-tweet adds to the volume and effectiveness of the original message, like a chain reaction or like a rolling ball, accumulating more and more on its surface while in motion. U.S. President Barack Obama’s ‘Four more years’ was re-tweeted for a record-breaking 800,000 times.
1. Justin Drew Bieber
Justin Drew Bieber was born to Jeremy Jack Bieber and Patricia Mallette in London, Ontario, Canada on March 1, 1994. His debut album My World was released in November, 2009 and was certified platinum in the U.S. He is the bestselling Canadian pop artist and the first to chart 7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 from his debut My World. Next only to Lady Gaga’s, Bieber’s Twitter account @justinbieber is the most popular celebrity account with more than 30 million followers. His tweet ‘Call me right now,’ was perhaps the most confusing Twitter gaffe of 2012 as the phone number he gave to the fans for this purpose was missing one digit. Over 19 million people tried to guess and find out the missing digit. On this account, a couple in Texas received over 1,000 phone calls. Although Bieber had deleted the tweet immediately, yet it had already reached millions of people.
2. Kenneth D. Cole
Kenneth D. Cole was born in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. on March 23, 1954. Cole graduated from Emory College of Arts and Science of Emory University. He founded the American Fashion House Kenneth Cole Productions in 1982. In April, 2012, the fashion icon started a campaign relating to Teacher’s Rights vs. Students’ Rights, and the response was a negative outcry for which the company tweeted an apology saying ‘We misrepresented the issue ‘“ one too complex for a billboard ‘“ and are taking it down.’ Earlier on February 3, 2012 Cole tweeted through his Twitter account @Kenneth Cole saying ‘”Millions are in an uproar in Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at (website address) ‘“KC.’ In view of the backlash, he tweeted ‘I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight, my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.’
3. Sally Barcow
Wife of the British Speaker of the Parliament, Sally Barcow in November, 2012 tweeted on her Twitter account naming Lord McAlpine as a child sex abuser. She tweeted ‘Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*.’ The allegations were found baseless, and in December, 2012 Barcow’s solicitors, Carter-Ruck, declared that they were defending Barcow in a £50,000 libel lawsuit filed by Lord McAlpine. Barcow’s account was deleted in November 20, 2012, but she rejoined Twitter a week later. Her account was hacked again in December, 2012.
4. Mitt Romney
It was presumed that Twitter would be a source of information while it has become a platform expressing personal sentiments and satires. During the second debate of the presidential election, Mitt Romney pointed out that, while assembling his cabinet as Governor of Massachusetts, he went through ‘whole binders full of women’ who were qualified for government positions. Barack Obama’s Twitter account is run by his campaign staff, and it promoted a tweet which stated, ‘Mitt Romney still won’t say whether he’d stand up for equal pay, but he did tell us he has ‘binders full of women.” According to Google, the phrase ‘binders full of women’ was the top search during the second debate; it caused a great stir on the Internet.
Coffee maker Starbucks on their Twitter account @ StarbucksIE tweeted on June 5, 2012 ‘Happy hour is on! Show us what makes you proud to be British for a chance to win.’ A user, Fergus McNally, tweeted in response ‘@StarbucksIE, the ‘IE’ stands for Ireland, awaiting the apology before I visit your stores again!!’As a corrective measure, Starbucks tweeted on June 5, 2012 ‘We erroneously posted to our Irish Twitter page meaning to post to the U.K. only. Customers in Ireland: We’re sorry.’ It followed a clarification statement, ‘First and foremost we apologize to our Irish customers for the mistake made on Twitter yesterday afternoon. The tweet, which was only meant to be sent to our British Twitter followers as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, was erroneously posted to our Irish Twitter page.’
6. Brampton Students
Nine students of the St. Brampton School were suspended when they tweeted about their teachers. The Dufferin-Peel District School board said that ‘Nine grade 12 students in Brampton, Ont., who made comments about their teachers on Twitter were suspended from classes after the school board deemed the remarks inappropriate. The Dufferin-Peel School Board further clarified that nine students at St. Marguerite d’Youville Secondary School had been asked to stay home Wednesday. Two students received suspensions with the instruction that they must submit apologies to their teachers.’
7. Waitrose Twitter Gaffe
On September 17, 2012, the supermarket Waitrose invited users to complete the tweet: ‘I shop at Waitrose because’¦’ Whereas there were some genuine responses, many users responded jokingly or for fun only. One user responded ‘I also shop at Waitrose because I was once in the Holloway Road brand and heard a dad say ‘Put the papaya down Orlando!” Another user tweeted, ‘I shop at Waitrose because it makes me feel important, and I absolutely detest being surrounded by poor people.’ Waitrose was quite tactful in handling the viral tweets saying ‘Thanks for all the genuine and funny Waitrose reasons tweets. We always like to hear what you think and enjoyed reading most of them.’
8. Donald Trump
Matches are not planned to be drawn and elections are not intended to be ties. One has to emerge as winner while someone has to lose. Great sportsmanship is normally shown at the end, but sometimes it is difficult for a few to accept the opponents’ victory. Donald J. Trump could not accept the victory of Barack Obama and kept on tweeting desperately until the end. His tweets included: ‘We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!’ and ‘He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country.’
9. Sen. Patrick Brazeau
Canadian press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn reported about the poor attendance record of Sen. Patrick Brazeau and linked the story with a tweet ‘Youngest senator has worst attendance record of upper chamber this session’¦’ Although she did not expect a direct response, but the senator was quick to name calling in response through his tweet ‘@jenditchburn while u smile Jen, others suffer. Change the ‘D’ to a ‘B’ in your last name and we’re even! Don’t mean it but needs saying.’ The reporter tweeted instantly ‘@TheBrazman: Dear Senator: Many a person has made fun of my name and the word ‘Bitch.’ But never a Canadian senator. That’s a first.’
10. Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian, the TV Reality star, had to face the music after her pro-Israeli tweet, saying ‘Praying for everyone in Israel.’ The tweets she received in response ranged from simple requests to remove her tweet to death threats. Some of them were: ‘pls delete this tweet, please, Kim’; ‘Further enhancing your reputation as a dumb, porn star’; ‘Praying for everyone in Israel, you are a disgrace to your people and your ancestors, educate yourself.’ To cool down, she tweeted, ‘And praying for everyone in Palestine and across the world.’
No other social networking medium is more accessible and user friendly than Twitter. It has been used even by robots like NASA’s Robonaut 2 which sent its first tweet from the International Space Station reading, ‘Those electrons feel GOOD! One small step for man, one giant leap for tin mankind.’ Time has proved that 140 characters are good enough to make or break depending upon how do they impact the followers.