Posted July 25, 2013 6:20 pm by with 0 comments

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A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how Twitter’s TV ad targeting system is now open to everyone with enough money to pay for a national TV commercial. Like many of the other writers who covered the story, I used the graphics Twitter provided.



I assumed, as did most of the people who saw the graphic, that it was a mock-up using fake data to show how the analytic tool works. I assumed it was fake because Twitter wouldn’t use the data from a real brand – that could lead to disclosure issues or, if they didn’t mind, free advertising for a brand.

Turns out I was only half right. The promotional response Tweets in the graphic are fake – the users are not. Distance runner Neil Gottlieb was surprised to find out that he “loved” the song in the Barista Bar commercial. He didn’t write the Tweet but not only did Twitter use his name, they used his image!

Remember when Facebook got in trouble for making “likes” look like recommendations in Facebook ads? After a class-action suit was filed, Facebook agreed to pay out 20 million to the injured parties who showed up in those Sponsored Stories.

Think Twitter will have to pay for this mistake? Twitter thinks an apology is enough.

An earlier version of this blog post included an image with mock Tweets from real users of our platform. This was not OK. Once we became aware of this mistake we took it down immediately. We deeply apologize to the three users included in the earlier images.

If the offended parties are thinking of suing, they’ll have to get around this paragraph in the Twitter Terms of Service.

You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

I’m sure this isn’t what Twitter had in mind, but that paragraph says that by using the service, you’re giving them permission to use your content.

What makes this situation unusual is that Twitter combined their content with fake statements making it appear as if they were promoting a product. That’s the twist that could cost them. If Twitter was smart, they’d pay the three people the amount they’d pay any model appearing in a print ad. It would be a nice paycheck without breaking the bank. Yes, it was just a mistake. We all make them. But Twitter needs to protect itself, too. A payout – whether it’s right or not – is the smart thing to do.

The lesson for everyone else is that we need to start double checking the work. It’s hard. I know. Too few employees, too many deadlines. We rush to get things done and that’s when mistakes happen. A certain local news affiliate comes to mind. . . .

A little more care before you hit publish will result in a little less stress on the other end.

Nod to SFGate for the story.