Let HuffPost, CNN, Mediaite’s Twitter mistake be a warning
An embarrassing error by several major news organizations is a good reason to go back and read last week’s post about Poynter.org’s reading list for verifying social media. And then go read Poynter’s list.
The Huffington Post, CNN and Mediaite, at least, mistook a Twitter parody account for North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue’s real feed, and reported that Perdue had apologized to the governor of Mississippi for a remark that North Carolina’s recent gay-marriage ban made her state “look like Mississippi.”
The phony tweet read, “Called the Mississippi governor today and apologized for my remarks. Offered to send him some Bojangles Bo-Berry biscuits to make amends.”
As Poynter’s Craig Silverman points out, following some simple best practices would have prevented the news organizations from mistaking that tweet for a real statement by Perdue. Looking at the other tweets in the timeline would have provided a clue, for example. Silverman highlights some tweets, including “OH LAWD, WE’RE SCREWED Y’ALL,” that were pretty unlikely to have come from a governor without becoming major news stories themselves.
Mediaite “updated” its story to reflect that it had been had, and after apologizing, tried to blame Twitter’s verification system, the notice on the feeds of public figures that tells readers the company has checked and the feed really belongs to that public figure:
We would have preferred to rely on Twitter’s verification system, but even that has become a less-than-reputable measure of an individual’s existance [sic], given that Twitter has been verifying fake accounts (like Dallas’ J.R. Ewing) and Gov. Perdue’s real account remains unverified.
Well, it would be foolish to rely solely on something like Twitter’s verification system when other methods are available—such as knowing that fake Twitter accounts exist and tweets like “what a night y’all. my floor is covered in leftover bo-berry biscuits, spilled red wine, and apparently I drunk dialed [Lt. Gov.] Walter Dalton” are a pretty good indicator you’re reading one.
Just down the timeline from the offending tweet is one that the fake account retweeted, recommending that people follow @GovBevPerdue: “Yes, it’s a fake account. And yes, you should follow.” This was not some great mystery. It just would have taken a few seconds of due diligence to figure out that @GovBevPerdue is a parody.
Mediaite updated its update to reword the apology. It still blames Twitter, but writer Noah Rothman prefaces that by saying he wishes he could blame Twitter:
I wish we could have blamed the error on Twitter’s verification system, given that has become a less-than-reputable measure of an individual’s existance [sic], since Twitter has been verifying fictional accounts (like Dallas’ J.R. Ewing) and Gov. Perdue’s real account remains unverified.
Don’t get caught having to make these awkward apologies. Take those few seconds and verify as best you can that what you’re seeing on social media is the real deal.
That reading list again.
And some further reading from this blog: