Only one full week of the new year has passed but it was already full of stories of Twitter account usage that has caused outrage.

Two footballers Marvin Morgan (then of Aldershot Town) and Ryan Babel (Liverpool) hit the headlines for Twitter postings that went beyond the realms of acceptability for public figures, enflaming the debate about whether employers should restrict or at least control the use of social media for their employees more stringently.

Yet at the same time, some of the most trusted news outlets in the world including Reuters and the BBC – who really should have known better – were in the spotlight for Tweeting factually incorrect reports of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Gifford in Tucson, Arizona.

Reuters were the first to break the news with the Tweet: FLASH: Congresswoman Gifford dies after being shot in the head at public appearance in Tucson, Arizona.

When news came through that the Congreesswoman was seriously wounded but not still alive, Reuters then deleted that tweet, but not before it had been re-tweeted by many and also reported by many more trusted Twitter accounts like BBC News.

So the lesson learned is to make sure that factually correct information is tweeted. That is traditional journalism practice, checking sources, even triple sourcing before putting your name to it. Yet, the fast-paced and informal nature of Twitter alongside appear to have led to those ‘rules’ being blurred. Non-journalists also need to remember that Tweeting a message is more public than any email list ever was and there have always been risks with emailing controversial things.

Yet, the further debate the week’s events have created is whether Tweets should be deleted or not once posted. In the case of Reuters above, they did delete the incorrect tweet once they clarified the true position. However, other outlets like the BBC left the incorrect tweets in the ether, following them with factually correct tweets later. It is a tough call. Twitter has a function to delete tweets for this very reason, but many are arguing that the nature of Twitter means you should stand and be counted by anything you post.

What do you think? Should the practice of deleting tweets be frowned upon?

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2 Responses

  • Mark van Loon

    Here, in the Netherlands, people make mistakes again and again. Athletics, politicians, employees, everyone can make a mistake. While it is nog as hard as you think. Just don’t be stupid.

    What I found interesting, why do people do this? It seems most of the time a well thought-through tweet.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm