Top Dumb Dot Facebook Dot Twitter Dot Google Dot Come On's?!
A new poll says that three in every four Facebook users avoid adding their boss as a 'friend' out of fear that their actions on the site could cost them their job. We round up the best social media gaffes from Facebook, Twitter and Google.
1. Tenant sued by landlord
When Amanda Bonnen described her Chicago apartment as "moldy" on Twitter, she had no idea of the legal trouble that would ensue. Her landlords, Horizon Group Management, took offence to the message, claiming that she "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory tweet, thereby allowing the tweet to be spread throughout the world", and sought at least $50,000 in damages. But a judge in Cook County, Chicago, eventually threw out the lawsuit, saying the tweet was "too vague" and "lacked context". Nonetheless, the furore was a stark reminder that thoughts and views shared online do not exist in a vacuum, and have the potential to come back to haunt the sender.
2. Habitat hash-tag spam
The brave new world of social media can be a minefield for "traditional" brands making their first foray in to online marketing. Habitat was forced to apologise after it used the Iran election to help publicise money-saving discounts at its store. The person in charge of the company's Twitter feed added keywords, known as hashtags, to their tweets, to ensure Habitat's messages appeared on Twitter's list of trending topics. The timing of the stunt was unfortunate -- at the time, Twitter was being used by protestors in Iran to organise rallies against the disputed election results, and to inform people in the West about how they had been treated. The appearance of offers for discounted bookcases and coffee tables among messages about police brutality and pleas for help did not go down well with the Twitterati. “Just read about your hashtag abuses,” wrote Caramboo on Twitter. “You utter scumbags, I’ll never visit your shop again”. Habitat apologised, and said the "hashtag spam" was an error, but it's a cautionary tale for companies that think engaging with the online community is as easy as setting up a Twitter account.
3. Tweeting live from a funeral
The tragic death of three-year-old Marten Kudlis, killed by a motorist while queuing for ice cream, devastated the community of Aurora, Colorado. Local newspaper, Rocky Mountain News, dispatched journalist Berny Morson to cover the funeral - on Twitter. The resulting stream of tweets - describing every stage of the service, from the sobbing of relatives to the lowering of the coffin in to the ground - make for truly uncomfortable reading. There's a cold detachment to the messages, caused, no doubt, by the need to condense an emotionally charged event in to 140-character messages. But it demonstrated that even in today's permissive society, where make-ups, breaks-ups and the minutiae of daily life are shared through social-networking sites, some things should never, ever be "live blogged".4. Facebook Beacon
5. Google BuzzWith 400 million users around the world, Facebook is sitting on huge amounts of personal data that many advertisers would sell their souls to get their hands on. Mining this data is one sure-fire way for Facebook to boost its profits, but it also has a duty to its users to protect their privacy. Its efforts to square this circle have resulted in some significant mis-steps, the most famous of which is Beacon, Facebook's ill-fated attempt at an online advertising platform. The aim of the service was to exploit the power of "word of mouth" marketing - it inserted details of purchases made at participating websites in to the news feed of Facebook users, making it visible to all their friends. But some users complained that that they had not been aware these details would be shared --one user said it meant her husband knew what she had bought him for Christmas. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, was forced in to a humiliating U-turn, admitting that the service had been a mistake, and changing the rules so that Beacon became opt-in rather than opt-out. Beacon was shut down completely in September 2009, following a class-action lawsuit from disgruntled Facebook users.
This was Google's attempt to replicate the real-time status updates that have proved so popular among Twitter and Facebook users. Buzz, which plugs in to a user's Gmail email account, connects people together based on names in their address book; it auto-followed people based on who users emailed most frequently. The problem was, as many people pointed out, the service was switched on automatically, which resulted in some people being connected to other people they had no wish to network with. Blogger Harriet Jacobs was furious about the service, which resulted in her being automatically connected to her "abusive ex-husband", putting her "actual physical safety" at risk. Google admitted that the roll-out of the service had been less than perfect, and made some changes so that it was easier for users to hide their list of followers, block new followers, and dictate who appeared on their public profile.
6. Labour candidate sacked over 'offensive' tweets
Stuart MacLennan, who was standing in Moray in Scotland, used his Twitter account to moan about having to go "up north" to his constituency, branded elderly people "coffin dodgers", called local people "chavs" and insulted rival MPs, including Nick Clegg and Dianne Abbot. Although most of the comments were made before he was selected to stand for Parliament, the resulting uproar is a timely reminder of the digital permanency of online comments.
7. Worker sacked for calling job 'boring'
After a hard day at work, Kimberley Swann logged on to Facebook to let off some steam. She updated her status, complaining about her "boring" job, only to be hauled in to the manager's office the following week to be told her services were no longer required. The incident led to accusations that companies were using Facebook to "snoop" on their employees, and resulted in the TUC calling on businesses to turn a blind eye to such comments. "Most employers wouldn't dream of following their staff down the pub to see if they were sounding off about work to their friends," said Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary.
8. Sacked on Facebook
Thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook, our "social graph" -- the number of people we're connected to -- is growing every day. But one employee, known as 'Lindsay', clearly forgot that she was friends with her boss on Facebook. So when she updated her status to complain about her "pervy boss", it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise to discover a 'wall' message, from her employer, telling her not to bother coming in to work again. "I'll pop your P45 in the post and you can come in whenever you like to pick up any stuff you've left here. And yes, I'm serious," wrote her disgruntled boss.
9. Too ill to update
Eagle-eyed employers in Switzerland dismissed one office worker after they noticed that she had updated her Facebook status while off sick - and was supposedly too ill to use a computer. The lady said that she was suffering from a migraine and needed to lie in a darkened room. Working on a computer would exacerbate the condition, she said. But when the company discovered she had updated her Facebook status, it said that is "destroyed its trust" in the employee, and prompted her sacking. The woman, for her part, claimed she had accessed the site on her iPhone, while confined to her sick bed. She also accused the company of creating a fake Facebook persona in order to befriend her and monitor her online activities.
10. Job offer retracted on Twitter
Twitter user “theconner” was happy as she had just landed a well-paid job from internet company Cisco, but was not sure whether to accept. She tweeted the following: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” However soon after the company rescinded the offer tweeting: “Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”