Top 10 Social Media Snafus of 2019 - iMediaEthics

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As with every year, 2019 saw plenty of bad tweets, wrong tweets, and more. Tweets by staffers from The New York Times in particular were the subject of several articles from iMediaEthics this year.

10. SB Nation’s Athletics Nation website, which focuses on the Oakland Athletics baseball team, fired a reporter for tweeting personal attacks against Kyler Murray for entering the NFL draft. Tweets included calling Murray “a stupid, selfish, baby & brat” and that “I won’t care a bit when you suck or critically injured in your rookie NFL season.” Read the article.

9. Commentary editor John Podhoretz apologized in March for his tweet calling for journalism schools to be “neutron bombs” after New York University hired Lauren Duca and Talia Lavin to teach journalism classes. Read more.

8. Reuters deleted a tweet this September that referred to actress Kirsten Dunst as “best known for her role as Spiderman’s girlfriend.” Dunst criticized the tweet as “careless” and “ignorant,” and Reuters admitted its tweet was “a mischaracterization of Ms. Dunst’s accomplishments.” Read the article

7. The Des Moines Register fired a reporter for his tweets from 2010 when he used the n-word, said f- all cops, and made fun of gay marriage. The tweets from that reporter, Aaron Calvin, came to light after he had worked on a story about Carson King, a man who was flooded with donations after a viral moment on ESPN College GameDay, and found King’s problematic tweets. Read the story.

6. NPR producer Furkhan Khan resigned after a tweet insulting Hinduism. The tweet in September read, “If Indians give up Hinduism, they will also be solving most of their problems what with all the piss drinking and dung worshipping.” Read the story.

5. The New York Times in general: The Times had numerous issues involving Twitter this year. Is that because the nature of the Times being so high-profile and with such a large audience means we notice its problems more easily? Or, has it just been a rough year on Twitter for the Times?

The Times demoted editor Jonathan Weisman for tweets including his private message to author Roxane Gay calling for her to apologize to him for criticizing him, his tweet about the origins of some members of Congress, and his tweet criticizing a political action committee for trying to “unseat an African-American Democrat.” (The PAC backed another black politician.)

The New York Times also deleted and apologized for an “offensive” tweet about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The tweet? “Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.”

The Times‘ Bret Stephens quit Twitter in August but not before he e-mailed a professor and the professor’s boss after the professor quoted a tweet about bedbugs in the New York Times newsroom, adding “The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens.”

The New York Times also called Mao Zedong “one of history’s great revolutionary figures.” The Times deleted that tweet because it said it “lacked critical historical context.” Read the article.

And in April, the Times tweeted several times criticizing a reader who joked that if you are the first person to complete a New York Times crossword puzzle in a day, the staff lets you “executive one pundit of your choice. full legal amnesty and all.” Those tweets were all deleted, with the Times explaining that they did not meet the newspaper’s guidelines. The Times also apologized and deleted a tweet on the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks that read “18 years have passed since airplanes took aim and brought down the World Trade Center. Today, families will once again gather and grieve at the site where more than 2,000 people died.” Read more.

4. In a story that went viral this fall, Coleen Rooney tweeted that she had been posting fake stories on Instagram to suss out a friend who was telling her secrets to the press. Rooney’s tweets explained she hid her Instagram posts from all but one friend and then posted fake news to test her theory. Her friend, Rebekah Vardy, denied that she told her pal’s social media stories, but the Sun newspaper in England ended up adding editor’s notes to stories based on the social media posts. It was a confusing, gossipy, and juicy twist on social media and verification. Read the iMediaEthics report.

3. In March, Channel 7 Australia tweeted and then deleted and then re-posted a photo of Australian Football League player Tayla Harris kicking a goal. What happened? Channel 7 posted the photo, but then it was inundated with offensive comments. Then, it deleted the photo. But, that “sent the wrong message,” Channel 7 admitted, so it re-posted it. Read the article.

2. The Economist offended readers with a tweet in March asking if transgender people should “be sterilized before they are recognised.” The tweet “mischaracterised our article on transgender rights in Japan,” the Economist said, because it was just the first line of a story and didn’t include the context of the full article. Read the article.

The BBC fired radio host Danny Baker after he tweeted a racist photo headlined, “Royal baby leaves hospital.” The photo showed two people walking with a chimp wearing clothes. Read the article.

1. Historical tweets: In 2019, staffers at numerous news outlets got into trouble for historical, or older, tweets on social media platforms.

New York Times editor Tom Wright-Piersanti apologized in August for offensive tweets including a 2010 tweet that “one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic” and a 2009 tweet about the “Jew-police.” In February, Daily Caller White House correspondent Amber Athey apologized for tweets from 2012 when she was in high school that included comments on the Holocaust, Jewish people, and anti-gay slurs (her tweets were flagged by progressive watchdog Media Matters). And in July, CNN editor Mohammed Elshamy resigned after some of his anti-Semitic tweets from 2011 resurfaced.

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Top 10 Social Media Snafus of 2019

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