On Monday, the US Airways Twitter account replied to a customer with a tweet that included a photo of a sex act involving a toy plane. It was horrifying, to say the least; and, for some reason, it remained online for more than an hour without being deleted. For that hour, the Twitterati both shuddered in embarrassment for the brand and celebrated its folly.
It was, in our estimation, the Worst Tweet of All Time.
That’s not to say that the US Airways toy-plane-sex-act tweet didn’t have some tough competition for that crown. Twitter, for all its witty personalities, fab celebs, and news breakers, can also be a cesspool of racist jokes, unscrupulous portraiture, and thoughtless brand promotion.
Here we present the most horrid of them all. May this list serve as a reminder to always think twice before hitting that Tweet button.
13. A news anchor who made a joke about six people being shot.
To be fair, @FOX29philly’s original tweet about a shooting in Philadelphia was also distasteful. It’s never a good idea to dramatize a tragic event with capital letters and an exclamation point. But an anchor for the station, one Joyce Evans, took it to another level when she retweeted the message with a less-than-amusing Breaking Bad joke. Probably not the best move, Joyce.
As you might imagine, the tweet did not go over well. But Twitter member @Mobute found the silver lining: “I’ll say this much. You’re a lot more famous now than you were eight minutes ago.” True!
12. Klout’s attempt at celebrating Martin Luther King Day.
Klout, the startup that ranks your influence via your social media interactions, is occasionally mocked for its uselessness and self-importance. Apparently, no one told Klout’s Twitter operator this fact. On Martin Luther King Day last year, Klout responded sincerely to a mocking tweet. Yes, on this day of remembrance, we sure are thinking of what a social media thinkfluencer MLK would have been!
Klout later deleted the tweet and apologized. Sigh. If only the brand that prides itself on its expert tips for #engaging #users had brushed up on some of its own social media advice!
11. Kenneth Cole’s attempt to fuse his spring line and the 2013 Egyptian Revolution into one tweet, as first detailed by my colleague Deb Amlen.
In 2013, millions of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest that country’s corrupt, autocratic government. Many were raped, maimed, or killed in the ensuing skirmishes with the government and military. The Twitter handler for the Kenneth Cole fashion line saw that #Cairo was trending on Twitter and took the opportunity to promote its spring line of clothing.
Again: Show a little awareness, brands!
The designer himself later apologized via Facebook and said he understood “the sensitivity of this historic moment.” Speaking of a lack of sensitivity…
10. Entenmann’s reckless tweet surfing.
One shameless way to gain followers? Dog-pile onto whatever hashtag is trending on Twitter at the moment. At least we imagine that was the strategy of the poor soul running the Entenmann’s account, who chose to tweet the above as news broke that teen mom Casey Anthony was found not guilty of suffocating her 2-year-old daughter in a hotly contested trial.
Maybe next time that social media manager will spend less time eating all those tasty treats and more time actually reading her Twitter feeds.
9. Home Depot’s racist college football celebration.
It’s hard to imagine the mind of a social media marketer who would force two beleaguered black Home Depot employees to pose next to a man in a gorilla suit, all in the name of a few retweets. Though this is by far much more subtly offensive than, say, the entire feed of YesYoureRacist, it makes our list because it was not merely a spontaneous tweet that escaped into the ether. It took an extensive amount of planning.
Not only did the person who set up this photo need to rent a gorilla costume and find someone to wear it; he or she then had to find two barely willing employees to pose alongside the monkey. All this while completely ignoring the years and years of shameful U.S. history during which bigots compared black people to monkeys as a method of belittlement.
After spurring rightful outrage, Home Depot pulled the tweet and apologized on Twitter saying it had “terminated [the] agency and individual who posted” the tweet. Maybe just post a photo of a football next time?
8. Jokes about people drowning during the Japanese tsunami from comedian and Aflac spokesman Gilbert Gottfried.
Some people saw the 2011 Japanese earthquake that caused a tsunami as a tragedy. Others, like Gilbert Gottfried, saw it as an opportunity to test out some new standup material. The comedian spewed offensive joke after offensive joke via his personal Twitter account as victims searched for their family members in the natural disaster’s wreckage. This is all made worse when you imagine Gottfried speaking these jokes aloud in his infamously nasally voice.
It turns out that the insurance company Aflac, which does 75 percent of its business with Japanese customers, was not amused. Aflac immediately terminated its contract with Gottfried. Tough crowd.
7. Former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson’s brotastic launch to infamy.
Before Silicon Valley watchdog Valleywag stumbled upon Pax Dickinson’s unapologetically misogynistic, homophobic, classist, and racist Twitter feed, he was just a simple chief technology officer at Business Insider, enjoying his life making distasteful jokes about rape, poverty, and gay rights without much notice.
But after the post, he immediately lost his job and was shunned by the tech community. It wasn’t until the tank-top enthusiast spent a few months doing some soul searching that he posted a public apology. He most recently resurfaced in a New York Times story in which he had pivoted his persona from brogrammer to empathetic feminist.
Oh, and his tweets are private now.
6. Amanda Bynes’ very … aggressive pickup line, written just for Drake.
As part of her public, bizarre meltdown last year, Amanda Bynes threw a bong out of her 36th-floor apartment, wore many an unfortunate wig, and doused her tiny dog in gasoline before setting fire to a person’s driveway. Perhaps most shocking of all was her decision to publicly express her graphic desire for the rapper Drake on Twitter.
Bynes was later placed in a mental health facility and eventually admitted she was “mortified” by her own comment. And, yet, the tweet still stands as a monument to that brief period of time when no one, not even TMZ, could anticipate what might happen next on the child star’s feed.
5. Anthony Weiner’s wiener tweet.
We’re not sure who was happiest when Democratic House Rep. Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted a photo of his erection to his followers. The BigGovernment.com reporter Publius, who disseminated the image to every news outlet possible? Weiner’s challengers in the upcoming New York mayoral election? Pun lovers across the world? Or perhaps it was the writers of Law and Order, who later repurposed this real-life event into a lazily written plot line?
As you may remember, Weiner later admitted that this photo was meant as a direct message to a young lady. We later learned that there were many an admirer whom he had successfully messaged privately, including fame-hungry paramour Sydney Leathers. Just think: We would’ve never made her acquaintance if it weren’t for Twitter.
4. A boutique’s unfortunate misunderstanding of why Aurora was trending.
No, Celeb Boutique, the world is not talking about a Kim Kardashian-inspired dress you carry. It’s talking about one of the most sick and tragic shootings in American history. Next time, close all those Gilt tabs and look on literally any news site. We guarantee that the next hashtag you see won’t have anything to do with a piece of merchandise in your shop.
3. Justine Sacco’s AIDS “joke.”
Before boarding a plane to South Africa, Justine Sacco tweeted the above. Sacco was, when she boarded, the head of PR at IAC, which represents brands like OkCupid, Vimeo, and Ask.com. As she flew above the clouds for hours on a flight without an Internet connection, a huge digital mob waited for her, even popularizing the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet as she flew unaware.
When she landed, she found herself jobless and universally hated.
So we guess this is a good time to say, don’t joke about AIDS and Africa. But of course, you probably already knew that.
2. Geraldo Rivera’s drunken, shirtless selfie.
This is the selfie that cannot be unseen. I’m sorry. Rivera deleted the tweet when he sobered up the next morning; I’ve republished it here purely to recognize its twisted place in Internet history. Let us never speak of it again.
1. The “planegina” tweet, as we mentioned before.
The bar has been raised way high on this one, people. I can’t actually imagine how someone will beat it. But then again: We’re always just 140 characters away from a surprise on Twitter.