Everyone’s Tweeting Photos of Police Brutality Thanks to the NYPD’s Failed Hashtag
Twitter is a cool website where you can type any old thing into a box and senpecid it out into the ether for the entire internet to read. Some people use it to joke around, some people use it to be like, “HEY INJUSTICE IS HAPPENING, WHOA #GETINVOLVED” and some people use it in order to roleplay as characters from Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you like heated arguments with total strangers.
Large institutions like corporations and government agencies use Twitter too, usually pretty badly. “Hey, we’re a pizza company, send us pictures of you eating our pizza and hashtag them #pizzapics” is an example of a typical lousy tweet from one of these accounts. Generally institutions try to drum up something vague called “social engagement”—basically they want to get people tweeting good stuff about them so other people see those tweets and, I guess, come to think good thoughts about the institution who started the engagement campaign. The New York Police Department was probably thinking they could do one of those social engagement thingies when they launched the hashtag #MyNYPD with this tweet:
What the person running the Twitter account probably failed to realize is that most people’s interactions with the cops fall into a few categories:
1. You are talking to them to get help after you or someone you knew was robbed, beaten, murdered, or sexually assaulted.
2. You are getting arrested.
3. You are getting beaten by the police.
The Police Raided My Friend’s House Over a Parody Twitter Account
Jon Daniel woke up on Thursday morning to a news crew in his living room, which was a welcome change from the company he had on Tuesday night, when the Peoria, Illinois, police came crashing through the door. The officers tore the 28-year-old’s home apart, seizing electronics and taking several of his roommates in for questioning; one woman who lived there spent three hours in an interrogation room. All for a parody Twitter account.
Yes, the cops raided Daniel’s home because they wanted to find out who was behind @peoriamayor, an account that had been shut down weeks ago by Twitter. When it was active, Daniel used it to portray Jim Ardis, the mayor of Peoria, as a weed-smoking, stripper-loving, Midwestern answer to Rob Ford. The account never had more than 50 followers, and Twitter had killed it because it wasn’t clearly marked as a parody. It was a joke, a lark—but it brought the police to Daniel’s door. The cops even took Daniel and one of his housemates in for in-depth questioning—they showed up at their jobs, cuffed them, and confiscated their phones—because of a bunch of Twitter jokes.
Now Daniel’s panicking.
“I’m going to fucking jail,” he told me yesterday when he was on a break from his job as a line cook. “They’re going to haul me away for this shit.”
Should Teens Be Arrested for the Stupid Things They Say on Social Media?
On Sunday morning, a Dutch teenager named Sarah made one of the most disastrous attempts to be funny on Twitter in history. The 14-year-old girl, whose now-suspended handle was @QueenDemetriax_, decided it would be a good idea to tweet “hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye [sic]” at the official account of American Airlines, which responded with an ominous “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.”
Naturally, she freaked like the kid in trouble she was, tweeting panicked messages to @AmericanAir that she was “kidding,” “joking,” “scared,” “not from Afghanistan,” and “just a girl” who “never did anything wrong” in her life. She briefly paused to take stock of her fame (“Over 2,000 RTs what”) before she was identified by Dutch police, turned herself infor making a false report, and was brought to a court hearing before being released.
It’s not clear that she’ll face criminal charges, but in the wake of her jokey “threat” came a storm of copycats tweeting warnings to American Airlines (and Southwest Airlines, for whatever reason); it was sort of like that scene in Spartacus except much, much stupider. Articles about this hot new teen trend generally took pains to castigate young twitterers like@twerkcunt for their poor choice of prank. Writing for the Washington Post’s style blog, Caitlin Dewey made sure everyone knew that this kind of trolling was NOT COOL, KIDS:
We hardly need reiterate the problems with this kind of thing: Airlines need to take threats seriously, no matter how silly they seem, which means a lot of airline employees (and presumably, police and security and FBI) are spending a lot of time tracking down nuisance threats, as well.
Leaving aside, for a minute, the vast waste of taxpayer money and manpower that represents, there’s another more ground-level problem here: This trolling completely destroys whatever incentives airlines have to engage with their customers on Twitter.
I would argue that if federal agents spent any time whatsoever tracking down Twitter user @comedybatman or the kids making “I think you guys are THE BOMB”–related puns, the resulting waste of taxpayer money is on them, not the trolling teens. But more importantly, the knee-jerk reaction here—tut-tutting at some kids for having some fun making incredibly distasteful jokes—distracts from the actual problem of teens getting arrested, or suspended or expelled from school, for things they’ve posted to social media.
Advice for the Twitter Professional at US Airways Who Tweeted Hardcore Porn
Late last night, someone was complaining to US Airways about a bad experience she had had with that airline. This is an entirely normal thing to do—as much as 75 percent of Twitter’s content is users bitching about airlines being awful and the airlines’ corporate Twitter accounts apologizing and asking the dissatisfied customers to fill out online complaint forms. The person running the @USAirways account followed the script when responding this afternoon, apologizing profusely and politely. Then @USAirways tweeted an extraordinarily graphic picture of a naked woman holding her legs up and apart to reveal a model airplane jammed rather immodestly into her vagina. That was not a normal thing to do. Here’s how the exchange went:
THEN THERE WAS A FUCKING PHOTO OF A LADY WITH A PLANE IN HER JUNK. (Link here, but it’s NSFW because it’s the kind of weird, vaguely funny porn that no one even masturbates to.)
Amazingly, that photo stayed online FOR A FUCKING HOUR while everyone on Twitter was like “lol” and “wtf” and “smh” and “haha now we know where Flight 370 is right? oh shit too soon my bad.” Then US Airways was like, “We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating,” as if there were a black box recording of a twentysomething hitting Command-V in the wrong text box, or as if there were some kind of vast conspiracy to make everyone look at a picture of some lady having carnal relations with a toy.
To see what kind of #SocialMedia and #Branding lessons could be drawn from this incident, I talked to Hanson O’Haver, the VICE Social Editor—a.k.a. the guy who runs the @VICE Twitter account.
VICE: What did the person running the US Airways do wrong? Or did they do anything wrong?
Hanson O’Haver: Well, I did a little digging and it looks like the image they posted actually came from this tweet:
If you delete a tweet where you uploaded a photo, the link would be dead, so you can tell it originates from someone else’s account, not @USAirways.
What probably happened is that they were tweeted that link, copy/pasted it to send around for laughs or for some HR report, and then went to reply to the other person’s comment. They just pasted in the link and didn’t realize that the link they had meant to use hadn’t copied.
OK, and from a social media point of view, if you’re running a corporate Twitter account, do you generally want to tweet images of hard-core, graphic pornography? Or is that more of a social media “don’t”?
I mean, yeah, that’s generally looked down upon by clients. But in terms of increasing engagement, it’s certainly effective. Put it this way: US Airways wasn’t trending nationwide before they sent an angry customer a photo of a toy plane inside a vagina.
Social Media Dipshits: Stop Treating Us Like Fuckwits
Attention social media managers: Stop calling yourselves “social media snipers,” “digital Sinatras,” “digital inventionists,” “technology whisperers,” “content kings,” “brand activators,” “brand pollinators,” and “change agents” (all terms pulled from actual Twitter bios of social media “pros”).
What you are: admen and adwomen. Every update you create is a little ad for your brand; a free (FREE!) golden opportunity to be smart, funny, emotional, informative… something,anything other than moronic.
And yet, here we are again. According to my lazy research on social media “content” makers—via personal experience and my Twitter followers—almost all of these social media dipshits appear to be in their 20s. Are older, tech-averse brand and marketing managers really handing the social media keys to recent college grads just because they know some code and Photoshop? That’s just plain dumb, for reasons I have outlined below.
Anthropomorphizing your product is a popular ad concept, but creatively speaking, it’s lazy as hell. Still, it’s been very effective for many brands—M&M’s, the Scrubbing Bubbles, creepy naked Mr. Peanut, etc.
Strongbow is the world’s biggest-selling cider and, according to Wikipedia, “named after the knight Richard de Clare, later Earl of Pembroke, nicknamed ‘Strongbow’ for relying heavily on Welsh archers during campaigns in Ireland where at the time the Irish had few bows and relied on javelins.”
“Maguire” (as in “Jerry Maguire”) is an Irish surname. If only one of those Irish javelin throwers (possibly named Maguire) had had better aim, maybe there wouldn’t have been a Strongbow cider, and then I wouldn’t have been subjected to this abjectly stupid Facebook post.
Nancy Grace’s Insane, Murder-Fueled Twitter Brilliance
Out of the frothy, weird sea of people typing stuff into Twitter, hardly anyone makes me laugh as often, or genuinely shocks me more, than Nancy Grace. Thousands upon thousands of wannabe writers and comedians attempt to subvert Twitter’s format and play with surreal connections and black humor, but I doubt anyone has ever topped “I want answers #BoxOfInfants”—a tweet that, like “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” is a brilliant and complete short story told in the space of a single sentence.
Nancy Grace, for the uninitiated, is a former prosecutor who hosts her self-titled show on HLN, where she becomes furious at the evils that men do four times a week and stops just short of calling for the public execution of criminals. Like any vigilante, she’s got a backstory tinged with tragedy: She dreamed of becoming an English teacher until her college fiancé, Keith, was gunned down in front of a convenience store. From that moment on, she pledged that she would devote herself to fighting evil. “I would go to law school, become a prosecutor, and put people in jail who hurt victims like Keith,” she wrote of her life-changing epiphany.
She was really, really good at putting people in jail—she once told Larry King she never lost a case—though she was also later cited for pretty serious ethics violations. She went to television armed with that same zeal for watching people get thrown behind bars and the same disregard for any code of professional conduct.
Inside the Sad World of Adults Pretending to Be Kids for Retweets
Can you imagine taking a few hours out of your day to sit down with a crayon and forge a child’s exam paper? Or trying to convince thousands of people that one of your kids picked up a bra and dropped a witty quip about it being a “booby trap”? If the answer is “yes,” then you might not be as weird as you think. You might just be one of the legions of “Twitter comedians” who present clearly fabricated child-related anecdotes as things that really, definitely happened, purely to pick up brownie points from strangers on the internet.
That’s right: adults lying about stuff kids said is the new animals doing funny faces on the internet. After all, what are kids but animals with slightly better communication skills?
In terms of the trend’s Twitter popularity, it’s not yet up there with people arguing about David Moyes or RTing “Brazil smiles when Niall Horan smiles.” But these types of fake tweet are slowly colonizing the platform and the multitude of viral websites that feed off of it. It’s a phenomenon that is clearly bullshit; bad jokes told like news stories, fallen for and spread by idiots. A bit like crop circles.
The formula is simple: Think of a phonetic mistake that’s vaguely amusing but that a child is unlikely to have made in real life—getting “the Smurfs” mixed up with “The Smiths,” for example. In an ideal world, this phonetic mistake will hint at some higher truth about humanity; the more sentimental, the more chance your fake tweet has of being picked up by UpWorthy and shunted around the internet by moms who just got Facebook. Attribute this quote to your unknowing children, post it on Twitter, and hope it goes down as well as this one did with all the twee people on there who spend their time making jokes about badgers and biscuits:
Like most twee things, it’s difficult to figure out quite why it’s so annoying. It’s not that it harms the world in any specific, grievous way. There are certainly far more worrying things to stress about. And it’s not like I make a habit of playing Twitter cop. There are many other types of lies on Twitter that I don’t understand but that I don’t give a second thought to. There’s just something about this trend and its flagrant attention seeking—not to mention its cynical use of kids as props for added “ahhhh” factor—that really grates on me. If you’re being highfalutin, it’s a weird and sad nadir in the continued internet-driven devolution that’s turning fully-grown adults into infants. If I’m saying it straight, I just wish irritating people would stop trying to con me.