As well, most people on Twitter use the service for both public and private messages. This means that if you make a mistake in composing a private message, it can go public.
Finally, Twitter is still relatively new, and there might be people who aren't always clear on the difference, say, between a public @reply and a private direct message.
But even veteran Twitter users are prone to mistakes. Just last week, Charlie Sheen tweeted what he apparently thought would be a private message to Justin Bieber. Instead, he published his cellphone to millions of followers:
Some media reports called Sheen's blunder "pulling a Weiner." That, of course, refers to U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner who resigned after posting a picture of his crotch on Twitter, then lied about it and said his account had been hacked.
The picture, posted in May, was intended to be a private message to nightclub dancer and former porn actress Ginger Lee, one of at least six women with whom he had exchanged sexual messages and images.
"I am here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused," Weiner said in June, at a news conference his resignation from Congress. "I made this apology to my neighbours and my constituents. But I make it particularly to my wife Huma." (His pregnant wife, Huma Abedin, who is an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was not with him for the announcement.)
Canada had its own Weiner-like scandal in May, when a photo of a man's naked penis and legs was posted to the Twitter account of Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate George Lepp. It was taken down after about 20 minutes.
Initial reports quoted Alan Sakach, communications director for the Ontario PCs, as saying that the photo was inadvertently taken by Lepp's BlackBerry when it was in his front pocket.
The explanation was mocked immediately on Twitter, and phrases like "X-ray BlackBerry" and "invisible pants" quickly sprang up. The story even got its own hashtag: #JunkBerry.
Later, Sakach said the first reports were false and that Lepp's BlackBerry had been stolen when he was pickpocketed while leaving a party convention in Toronto. Sakach said the picture was not of Lepp and that Lepp had no idea where it had come from.
Tweets can also cause trouble when people handle more than one account, and a tweet that's appropriate on one account might not be on another.
Take this tweet that appeared on the official @ChryslerAutos account:
That's not the message people expect to hear from the car maker whose slogan is "Imported from Detroit." A few hours later, another Chrysler tweet appeared explaining the "account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it."
As it turns out, Chrysler had outsourced its twittering to a communications company called New Media Strategies. Chrysler later wrote on its blog, "After further investigation, it was discovered that the statement was issued by an NMS employee, who has since been terminated."
But tweets don't have to be accidental to get people into trouble, and it doesn't just happen to Twitter novices. Actor Ashton Kutcher is among the first celebrities to embrace the service and he won the 2011 CelebTweets.com "Foot in Mouth" award for this tweet:
That was Kutcher's immediate reaction to the news that Penn State had fired its longtime football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the team's child sex abuse scandal.
Kutcher later deleted the post and tweeted that he "didn't have the full story."
He later posted this tweet:
"As of immediately I will stop tweeting until I find a way to properly manage this feed. I feel awful about this error. Won't happen again."
His break from Twitter lasted about 16 hours.
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