Live tweeting [email protected] – a case study in bad taste

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‘Bad taste’, ‘goulish’ and ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’ – just a few of the phrases used to describe The Guardian’s reporting of 9/11 in its @911tenyearsago Twitter account.

The idea was to live-tweet the 9/11 attacks as if they were happening in real time.

On face value, @911tenyearsago provided an interesting exploration of how social media would have played its part on 9/11, had it been around at the time.

However, after just one hour and 16 tweets, the account had been suspended – public outrage was so deafening that The Guardian had no choice but to pull it.

So why was this particular Twitter reportage so badly received? For many, @911tenyearsago smacked of sensationalism and a way for The Guardian to show its affinity and connection with the medium of Twitter rather than provide any new insight into the event itself.

It’s clear that misjudgment of this kind shows we’re still learning the boundaries of Twitter. The tweets by @911tenyearsago were perceived as shocking because they were written as if the events of 10 years ago were really happening. On a day of quiet reflection for so many people, it was the account’s precise lack of warmth, context or emotion that made it so out of place.

While Twitter reporting was also carried out by other media organisations, including Associated Press and The Daily, The Guardian was the clear casualty of the day. Its quickness to react and remove the account was its only saving grace.