Be careful what you tweet

By Will Smale
Business reporter, BBC News

  • Published
Derek Simpson
Image caption,
Mr Simpon has offered to apologise

Union boss Derek Simpson has just discovered the peril of Twitter - be careful what you tweet.

The joint general secretary of the Unite union has found himself in hot water after sending some indiscreet messages via the micro-blogging service.

Attending sensitive talks with British Airways bosses to try to prevent further strike action by the airline's cabin crews, Mr Simpson used his Twitter account to give a running commentary on the proceedings.

Entries on his Twitter page, @dereksimpsonjgs, included "Arguments over the eight sacked workers," and "Fear of more sackings to come".

Perhaps unsurprisingly, BA's chief executive Willie Walsh - who was also at the meeting - was livid when he later discovered what had been going on.

"I was shocked and angry when I found out that Derek was doing that," Mr Walsh told the BBC.

"Sending out his version of events to the wider audience, that really did undermine my confidence in his desire to resolve this situation. It is a really serious issue."

Mr Simpson subsequently used Twitter to offer to apologise to Mr Walsh, but the episode did little to help the already strained relations between the two sides.

And the five-day strike by BA cabin crew staff has gone ahead as planned.

But Mr Simpson is far from the first person to find himself in trouble because of his tweets, as these other examples of ill-thought Twitter usage more than show.


During last month's general election campaign, Stuart MacLennan was sacked as the Labour candidate for the Scottish seat of Moray after he used Twitter to abuse constituents and rival politicians.

Image caption,
Stuart MacLennan said he was very sorry for what he had written

Some of his eye-catching tweets included calling elderly people "coffin-dodgers", and complaining "my gosh I've got a proper chav sitting opposite me this evening".

He also made the time to tweet: "You know I think I might be completely sober for the first time in four days."

Labour initially backed him to remain as a candidate, but later dropped him after opposition calls for him to go.

They also suspended his membership of the party.

"I am very sorry," Mr MacLennan subsequently said in an official statement rather than a tweet.

"I have been very stupid and rightly paid a high price."


Attending the Australian TV awards in Melbourne earlier this month, comedian Catherine Deveny sent out a number of bad-taste tweets.

Image caption,
Catherine Deveny was sacked from her newspaper column

One said she hoped a TV star's new wife "didn't die too", referring to the fact his first wife died from cancer in 2006.

Ms Deveny was subsequently sacked by Melbourne newspaper The Age, for which she wrote a column.

The Age editor, Paul Ramadge, said the views she had expressed recently on Twitter were "not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age".

Ms Deveny said her comments had been misinterpreted.

"It was just passing notes in class, but suddenly these notes are being projected into the sky and taken out of context," she said.


Paul Chambers was not happy when Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield was closed in January because of heavy snow.

Image caption,
The airport did not see the funny side of Mr Chambers' tweet

So the 26-year-old tweeted to his 600 Twitter followers: "Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week... otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!"

Mr Chambers' tweet was discovered by the airport a few days later when a manager searched for "Robin Hood Airport" using Twitter's search facility.

And as a result, Mr Chambers was swiftly arrested.

Earlier this month, a court found him guilty of sending a menacing electronic communication, fining him £385.

And he was also sacked from his job as an accountant.

Mr Chambers said he had no idea anyone at Robin Hood Airport would see the tweet, and explained that it had never crossed his mind anyone might take it seriously.


Back in 2009, a female jobseeker in California was not overwhelmed to be given a job offer by computer group Cisco.

Image caption,
Tweet in haste... repent at leisure

And so she tweeted: "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."

Unfortunately for the woman in question, her tweet was picked up by a Cisco employee.

He replied: "Who is the hiring manager. I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web."

The woman's job offer was revoked.

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