The Agony of DeTweet: When Twitter Gets Us Into Trouble

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The recent dismissal of CNN International correspondent Octavia Nasr is a lesson on watching what we tweet. The long-respected journalist, who many consider one of the few voices during the days after September 11th who provided in-depth and non-biased news, recently was fired for one single tweet. On Sunday, July 4, Nasr tweeted, “Sad to hear the passing Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” Nasr was talking about the death of a head figure in Hezbollah, an organization labeled as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Her simple tweet, meant to pay respect to one of the few Middle East leaders known for his support of Muslim women, was seen as support for terrorists. By the time the holiday weekend was long gone, so was Nasr’s job at CNN. Despite a follow-up tweet by Nasr to clarify her point and support from long-time journalism colleagues, Nasr has been shoved into the anti-American column. Whether or not we agree with the reactions that have flooded the blogs since Nasr’s Fourth of July tweet, we can all learn a thing or two when it comes to Twitter messages.

The big problem with Twitter is that you only have 140 characters to make your point. Therefore what could be misconstrued as controversial political remarks or thoughts on religion or anything else that might need a few thousand more words to explain should perhaps be left off of Twitter entirely. This is a great rule of thumb if you’re using Twitter as a PR or professional marketing channel. It’s simply bad business to shove political messages down the throats of clients. Quite frankly, clients don’t care what we think about the oil spill, the war or Hezbollah. Twitter is fun, light, social. If you want to spread the word about your pet causes, find another outlet to do it. This being said, it is unfortunate that we live in such reactionary times where a journalist like Octavia Nasr could have her career ended by a single mistweet.

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