It’s that awkward moment when you realize you’ve hit “send” on an email, status update, or tweet that contains an embarrassing error. Oops.
I know the moment well. In the not-too-distant past, I rather mechanically tweeted something from a pop culture-focused site, only to realize a few seconds too late that I had sent the message through a work account. To make matters worse, I no longer worked for the company. Commence panic. Begin flop sweat.
Following five minutes of anxiety, during which I struggled to come up with the account’s correct password, I successfully removed the errant tweet. Phew.
Fortunately, no one is tracking my 140-character mistakes. Not as lucky are the politicians being monitored by a new tool that launched last week, Politwoops.
Described as “the only comprehensive collection of deleted tweets by U.S. politicians,” the project, originally developed by the Open State Foundation of the Netherlands, has used Twitter’s API to collect more than 3,000 tweets sent by members of Congress, President Obama, and several presidential candidates during the past six months. The text of each tweet is accompanied by screenshots of any links that were included and the an indication of how much time elapsed before the tweet was removed.
The tweets found in this “searchable window into what they hoped you didn’t see” range on the embarrassment scale from minor (typo) to moderate (wrong account) to major (PR disaster). There’s everything from Rep. Keith Ellison’s harmless test tweet from his Blackberry to the more controversial link sent by Rep. Jeff Miller which asked, “Was Obama born in the United States?”
A recent favorite: this tweet from @WhiteHouse that mistakenly mentioned a satirical account for Janet Napolitano. If the “SATIRE :: THIS IS NOT JANET NAPOLITANO’S TWITTER ACCOUNT” note in the profile’s bio doesn’t clue you in, the endorsement of Sarah Palin should do the trick.
As previously mentioned in this blog, I love political gaffes. But as this piece in The Atlantic Wire points out, the Politiwoops project doesn’t just shine a light on our leaders’ goofs — it also humanizes them. “Who among us hasn’t felt the sinking feeling when you hit send and realize that perhaps you shouldn’t have?” asks Eric Randall.
Guilty as charged.