The Tweet heard round the world

As she embarked upon a long flight to Africa, PR staffer Justine Sacco issued this tweet. At best a darkly ironic self-deprecation that could never fit into 140 characters, it resulted, within bare minutes, in an internet-wide scandal. Even as the plane is still in the air--Sacco presumably oblivious--there is a hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet, a parody account, @LOLJustineSacco, a fake movie poster, and, God help her, a whole entire New York Times article, replete with a stunned disavowal from her corporate employers.

“This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.”

"Ms. Sacco," added The Times' Ashley Southall, "could not be reached for comment."

UPDATE: It looks like Sacco landed, deleted the tweet, and subsequently the entire account. I wonder if anyone managed to get a screen grab!

UPDATE 2:Here's a timely reminder from Michele Catalano about the dangers of Twitter.

UPDATE 3: Sacco was fired over the tweet, and apologized for it.

Notable Replies

  1. Her reputation was tarred by what she said in a public forum, not by the "mob". The only thing the "mob" is doing here is reacting to what she said by pointing it out to other people.

    It would be a different matter if people were doxxing or swatting her (and I really hope no one stoops that low). Stalking her plane flight is pushing the boundaries a bit. But otherwise, it doesn't really look like anyone's damaging her except by saying "look at these things this person has said." As a PR person, it's part of the job description to deal with that kind of thing.

  2. I think others have addressed it all quite well! But I was asked a question, so...

    You think that a racially-insensitive PR executive's public quip about AIDS in Africa is "fairly banal", and you "frankly don't care", yet you do think that mocking the utterer is "deplorable", a self-righteous and self-entitled witch hunt. It even makes you feel ill.

    Well, here's what I'm thinking! I think that a lot of people do care about it, and that making fun of public acts of privileged stupidity does make a difference. It helps diffusely, in how it influences the culture of discussion, and directly, in that people see it and pledge. All contrary to your cynical and revealing suggestion that "you and I do nothing to help those people."

    All that voluble disappointment, all these "you should be better than that" pieties. Has that ever once worked with us? Does it ever work with anyone?

Continue the discussion

173 more replies