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Before you share that information on Twitter

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Before you share that information on Twitter


Failure to sift private information you post on popular social network, Twitter, may land you in trouble, JAYNE AUGOYE writes

In May 27, 2011, Twitter followers of then U.S. congressman, Anthony Weiner, were shocked to see a sexually suggestive photograph sent to a 21-year-old college student in Seattle, US from his (Weiners’s) account. Upon realising his folly, the 46-year-old lawmaker quickly deleted it and thereafter sent out a tweet, saying that his Facebook account was hacked.

On June 6, 2011, Weiner held a press conference where he admitted he had, “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years”. He also apologised for his earlier denials, saying, “I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters, and the media.” Referring to the sexually suggestive photo in question, he said, “to be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it.”

Weiner’s Twitter scandal was widespread and cost him his reputation, but he is not the only highly placed individual to have been caught in such a web-related mess.

In China, a politician, Xie Zhiqiang, also suffered a similar fate after using Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging site similar to Twitter, to set up a liaison with a woman believed to be his mistress. Zhiqiang, the head of the Liyang City Sanitation Bureau, thought it was a private messaging service oblivious of the fact that they are public. When asked about the messages, the Wall Street Journal says, Zhiqiang was taken aback and said, “How did you see them? They’re not visible, right? You saw all the Weibos we sent to each other? It can’t be.”

Some celebrities have also been caught pants-down on Twitter. The Mohit Record’s producer, Don Jazzy, who is said to have about 100,000 followers on the site, arguably the largest by any Nigerian celebrity, has not been spared by controversies. Although Jazzy, whose real name is Michael Collins, is either giving out free call airtime on Twitter, making video calls with fans on Skype or hooking up with some at the store to give out gifts, his Twitter followers have also spun webs of controversies about his team.

The artiste recently took offence to a social media rumour which claims that the Mo’Hits team has been recruited into the Illuminati cult. Responding to the allegation, his tweet reads, “Hahahahahaha this is the dumbest story I have ever read. Guys, pls read. I don laff tire. Its stories like this about me that make me doubt that the poo exists in the first place. Instead of them to say they want promo for their site who is the fool behind dat?”

A tweet requires a maximum of 140 characters, yet failure to make good and constructive use of the facility can amount to some level of embarrassment. Because of the limited number of characters it allows a user to post, many try to fit in as much as they can to share with followers. A Twitter profile is personal and a user has the freedom of speech to say whatsoever pleases him or her at any given time. Anyone who does not like the tweet is free to ‘unfollow’ but before they leave your network, they may ‘retweet’ your posts to a larger circle of persons worldwide. So, it makes more sense to know where to draw the line between decency and profanity - especially when there is a reputation to protect.

Social media experts are quick to remind Twitter users of the dangers of not making proper use of the network, noting that anything you do on it that might endanger your job or career or make people think you are crazy is best avoided. The overwhelming power of the micro-blogging site also comes to the fore after American singer, Beyonce, revealed at the end of her performance at the just concluded MTV Video Music Awards that she was expecting a baby. The artiste’s declaration is said to have broken twitter record after it elicited 8,868 tweets per second.

Twitter, sometimes referred to as the ‘SMS’ of the internet, was created in March 2006. It currently enjoys a worldwide appeal with 200 million users, generates 200 million tweets and handles over 1.6 billion search queries daily.

According to, Twitter is not the ideal platform to send illicit photos of oneself to other people. The site also adds that Weiner’s scandal further reminds users that Twitter may be a great place to express thoughts, interests and other information; but it is still subject to many of the same privacy concerns that have trailed Facebook for long. Social media researches have also shown that stories of individuals posting content or sending tweets that they either should not have posted, or incorrectly broadcast to the wrong audience, were not uncommon before the scandal, but have become increasingly less common.

Msmdesignzblog adds that immediately after Weiner’s scandal broke, tweeting from politicians decreased by about 28 per cent. Five years after, it has been found that Twitter’s destructive capabilities remain a major issue. And while Facebook and Twitter give us an in-depth glimpse into the private lives of many of the celebrities, politicians, and athletes that utilise it, experts say, there still exists a huge divide between what individuals decide to share on Facebook and Twitter, and what they decide to maintain as parts of their private lives.

So, before you tweet that picture or message of yours, act wisely and remember that Twitter messages are public but users can also send private messages. The operators of the micro blogging site say, “Twitter collects personally identifiable information about its users and shares it with third parties. The service reserves the right to sell this information as an asset if the company changes hands.” - Nigerian news, Lifestyle news, naija, Nigeria, West Africa

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Updated 7 Years ago

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