For want of a comma: AP sends out confusing tweet that seems to double tragedy

Last week, the AP attempted to tweet about the landing of a plane which was carrying the remains of those who had perished in the MH17 disaster. In the tweet, the AP attempted to note that the plane carrying crash victims had landed safely.  That, however, is not what came across:

AP Tweet on MH17 remains

AP Tweet on MH17 remains

A quick glance at the tweet makes it appear as if the plane itself actually crash landed.

The reactions to this tweet, as you can imagine, were of shock, disbelief and anger (at the AP):

AP, Associated Press, MH17

The original tweet has not been deleted and was retweeted more than 4,300 times.  In nine minutes, the AP issued a clarifying tweet:

AP--MH17 Clarifies

There are three lessons here, for elected officials and anyone who uses Twitter:

  1. Double check what you tweet.  It’s very easy to get into the thinking of “Well, it’s only 140 characters, I couldn’t have possibly screwed up too much,” but this is how you get yourself into trouble.  Always make sure you review a tweet for grammar and clarity.  If you have links in a tweet, make sure that the links actually go where you are trying to; otherwise, you could end up like British Member of Parliament Rob Wilson, who attempted to tweet a link to a news story but instead sent out a link that took users to a porn site.
  2. Sometimes, deleting a tweet is okay. Normally, deleting tweets is something that people involved in social media advice against. After all, it seems to go against the ideal that social media is there for transparency.  However, there are instances in which I think it is acceptable: this is one of them, because the original tweet helped to promulgate an inaccurate news story.  I think it would have been appropriate if the AP had deleted the tweet, and then noted that the previous tweet was deleted due to inaccuracy (there was clearly space to do so in the clarification tweet).
  3. Speed kills.  Here’s one that I think the AP got right.  They clarified the tweet in under nine minutes and were able to quickly correct the story.  I still think it would have been more appropriate for the AP to delete the original tweet, but this was a very speedy response.

Any other great examples like these to share?  Let us know in the comments!

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