In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death on Dec. 5, many
celebrities famous people tweeted words of respect and condolence. Some reflected on what his life and his work meant to them, and some simply thanked him for his service to the world. We live in a culture obsessed with celebrity, and any time a celebrity tweets, someone, somewhere will find a reason to share said tweet.
A tweet widely circulated yesterday and still making the rounds today (because god forbid anyone verify something for themselves instead of believing everything they see on the internet) is one that was falsely attributed to Paris Hilton.
According to BuzzFeed.com, the fake tweet was actually the creation of Twitter account DeIetedTweets, an account that previously had only 8 tweets, all of which appeared to be PhotoShop creations of faked celebrity quips.
BuzzFeed’s announcement of the tweet being fake didn’t stop Hilton from being blasted all across social media. People called her every name in the book and directed insults at her intelligence quotient.
I did not become aware of the fake tweet fiasco until earlier this morning when I saw the tweet in a Facebook post. When I saw the post, my initial reaction was, she cannot be this stupid, so I immediately pulled up her Twitter timeline to verify the tweet for myself. I found Hilton re-tweeting others who were agreeing with her that the fake RT was wrong, and that those spreading it as truth were also at fault for trying to make her look stupid.
I made a comment on the Facebook post, which belonged to a ‘media’ company, and directed them to look at Hilton’s Twitter timeline themselves to see that she had not made the post. I then continued to read Paris’ responses on her timeline.
I thought about two things after this.
The first is: as a journalism student, I’m getting in the habit of attempting to verify everything I see online, whether it is posted on legacy or social media. That there are bloggers and websites that don’t do this as a practice puzzles me. It is essentially Day 1 J1. I don’t mean to assert that every blogger aspires to journalism ethics or that they even follow any type of regulated code of ethics, but if you are going to publicize and critique something presented as fact, don’t you want to be sure it is fact?
Paris Hilton weighed in on the tweets and expressed her disappointment with whoever created it and those who helped spread it. She also took some digs at people caring so much about her life.
Ironically, she built an entire career on being a reality television star and giving people a peek into her life. Not only did she build a career on being a reality television star, but she did so using a carefully crafted image of herself being a dumb as a door stop. Her shows never involved her impressing us with her smarts, but rather showed her getting into silly situations because she was simple.
This brings me to the second thought I had about this. Paris herself unwittingly contributed to people easily believing she wrote that tweet. No one questioned it because no one believes Paris Hilton to be a particularly bright individual. There were RTs on her timeline of people saying that it’s easy to try and make a successful person look dumb, but honestly, Paris did that; we didn’t.
Paris herself blames the producers of her reality show for creating that persona. In an interview with Metro, Hilton said:
‘When we did that show, it was the first reality show. I had never seen a reality show,’ insisted Hilton from her DJ residency in Ibiza.
‘I’d never been on camera in my life. I didn’t really know what to do. The producers told Nicole and I, “Nicole you be the troublemaker and Paris you be the ditzy blonde rich girl”. I tried to play the character of Cher from Clueless mixed with Eva Gabor from the Green Acres show – that character. I didn’t realise I would end up doing the show for five years and doing that character for five years.’
Unfortunately, she went along with this crafted persona, and now the image is stuck in the lexicon, and she will forever be the dumb blonde unless she suddenly becomes a nuclear physicist overnight and discovers something that rocks the science world.
Ultimately, the fake RT is the work of a site that was clearly seeking comedic popularity by making fun of celebrities. There is nothing wrong with that practice, but the fact that the Twitter account has been wiped clean of all evidence of their dirty work speaks volumes to their work ethic. Not to mention, they clearly made no mention or indication that it was any type of parody account, and this speaks to libel issues. By putting the tweet out there and claiming Hilton had written it, they essentially misrepresented the facts and called into question Hilton’s intelligence. There’s a possible legal issue there.
Celebrities aren’t the only ones who are targeted by fake RTs. They happen daily between everyday people on Twitter. I myself have jokingly done them to friends, but I’ve done my best to make sure that it is clear that it is a joke, and the content is never anything that could be damaging to someone’s reputation or personhood.
I watched a fake RT escalate into an ugly situation on #BlackTwitter, and I was reminded then about how much damage they can do. People get attacked for no reason, and once the Twitter lynch mob is upon you, there is really not much you can do.
Until people take the time to check timelines and verify tweets for themselves, Fake RTs will remain an act of Twitter terrorism, there will be wars happening behind him, and those who get hurt in the fallout will be the collateral damage.