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Congressman Weiner: How Not to Use Twitter?

Congressman 'panicked' after realizing he posted private message.

ByABC News
June 7, 2011, 12:51 PM

June 8, 2011 — -- In the end, of course, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner said he did it to himself. He was the one who got in contact with women, he admits. He concedes he sent lewd pictures, and then lied about it.

"[I'm] deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment and actions," Weiner said again and again. "This was a very dumb thing to do."

But look at the channels he used. Twitter. Facebook. Choking back tears at his news conference, he said he panicked after he sent what he thought was a private tweet with an image attached -- and then realized he had actually made it public, available to thousands of "followers."

Analysts of online culture say that, this being 2011, he ought to have known better.

"This is the nature of social media," said Michael Gartenberg, a research director at Gartner, a major technology consulting firm. "It's easier than ever to broadcast yourself to the world.

"He didn't realize everything he did was potentially public," said Gartenberg. "On the Internet there's no such thing as a retraction."

It is especially true on Twitter, which Weiner said he used to send messages to women. One's so-called tweets are so quick, and so short, that they discourage complete spelling -- much less thought about the consequences of sending something.

Mike Moran, the chief strategist at Converseon, a social media marketing agency, said the Weiner case is a reminder of what ought to be old lessons by now, but aren't.

"If you are doing something that would be embarrassing if found out, here is your big chance to stop," he wrote in a blog post. "The bigger you are, the more successful you are, and the more famous you are, as a person or as a brand, the more likely that someone, someday is going to call you on this bad behavior. Don't say you haven't been warned."

Twitter compounds the risk because messages on it are public unless you specify otherwise.

Moran elaborated in a telephone call. "I've seen people send private messages on Twitter that turned out not to be private at all," he said. "Twitter has a lot of conventions. People might think they're sending a private message, but instead it becomes a public message that mentions the person to whom they were trying to send it."

Moran said it was quite possible for Weiner to have messed up just once -- just a single private message to a woman that he accidentally posted publicly. After that, other women came forward, all with messages that are impossible to delete in the digital age.

"But people don't think about this that much," Moran said.

Rep. Weiner does have an official Twitter feed, filled mostly with cryptic political gibes ("On with Rachel tonight. Gonna talk about Trump eating pizza with a fork!") and occasional asides ("my TiVo ate the hockey game!"). By Tuesday afternoon his number of followers had grown past 70,000, even though the feed has been silent since June 1.