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Retweet Hijacking – What Would You Do?

[UPDATE 5.6.09 8:32PM PDT: I just got off the phone with the President of the company that the retweet hijack webmaster worked for. The conversation went well and I appreciate now that the company is a global organization with a large staff and an excellent reputation. The situation unfortunately got out of hand. I have chosen to edit this post to remove the company name.]

[IMPORTANT UPDATE 5.5.09 2:45PM PDT: Josh xxxx (last name removed), webmaster for @(name removed) has been in touch with me via email and also commented on my post (see below) and this post and on Twitter to extend his apologies and express his regret for the actions he took. I appreciate the gesture and may consider taking this post down, per Josh’s request… or at least making it anonymous, such that further repercussions are avoided.]

I don’t know about you, but I give GREAT care as to what I tweet about, even in my @ replies and conversations… even DM’s (direct messages). I run everything through an internal filter of:

  1. Would I be okay with this on the front page of the NYT?
  2. Would I be okay for this to be found in a Google search? and/or
  3. Would I be proud for my grandchildren to see this in 20 years’ time? (Exaggeration maybe, but content does hang around the internet for a long time!)

And, I’m always upbeat, positive and focused on adding value. (My tweeting style has been described as the “little Tony Robbins on your shoulder!”)

Now, I appreciate there are no “hard and fast” rules to using Twitter – or any social network, for that matter. BUT there are most certainly general rules of etiquette. And there’s personal INTEGRITY. Something very dear to my heart.

This morning, I put out this tweet: “Mother’s Day is coming up on May 10! This is a great site & service for same day gifts!”


One of the reasons I chose this site to tweet is I know the owner of the site and service personally.

I was delighted to see several retweets. But then something odd caught my eye – a guy retweeted me, but replaced the link I tweeted with a link to his OWN website, thereby inferring I was endorsing his site. UGH! That is the antithesis to best practice. I was not amused. See the screenshot below: @(name removed)’s tweet goes to his own xxxx site. 🙁


If you know me at all, you know I’m not the type of person to put energy into anything negative; if there’s a challenge to deal with, I’d rather do so quietly and privately. So, I saw that @(name removed) and I were following each other thus allowing direct messaging.

I was a little, um, terse – I broke one of my own relationship rules and that is I sent a message while just a smidge emotional. It’s always best to allow a wee bit of time to calm down and gain perspective.

I also decided to send a regular tweet sharing what just happened… without outing Mr. xxxx just yet – to see if he could somehow rescue this situation. He didn’t. It seemed to get worse. I received a barrage of DM’s from Mr. xxxx telling me it’s a free country and it was “lame” to “legislate integrity.” Oh dear. Well, guess whose xxxx company I won’t be using. Yes, it’s a free country.

Ignoring this occurrence may have been a better choice. But I wanted to make an example of this practice – which I now understand is becoming more prevalent on Twitter. In fact, it’s called “Retweet Hijacking!”


Blocking someone on Twitter will not prevent this type of hijacking behavior.

What are your thoughts – what would you do? Have you experienced/seen any retweet hijacking? Do you agree with this xxxx guy that it’s a “free country” and he didn’t break any of Twitter’s Terms of Service? Should the citizens of the Twitterverse bandy together to ensure best practices? Please share in the comments below [click Comments]:

Related posts: Are You A Twitter ReTweet Thief ?

[UPDATE 5/5/09 8:54pm: New related post found: Twitter “RTs” leave room for misquotes, fabrications]

Mari Smith

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Forbes describes Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” IBM named Mari as one of seven women that are shaping digital marketing. Mari is an in-demand keynote speaker, corporate social media strategist, dynamic live webcast host, and popular brand ambassador. She is coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day, and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

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  1. Josh on May 5, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    It is absolutely appaling to me that this has gone so far. What I did on Twitter is not as immoral as slamming one person and a whole business in the very public way that you have. THIS is slander. THIS is a deliberate shot at ruining someone’s reputation, not what I did. What I did has no long term legal or financial ramifications. THIS does. You people should be ashamed of yourselves. To call me a “sleazy”, “sneaky” and “un-ethical” person, and then allow this to continue and grow to the level that it has is UNETHICAL. That is why I did this in the first place. Mari’s claim that ethics is so dear to her heart is absolutely ingenuine, when she allows this kind of stuff to happen. Sure, bring the issue to light, but this is bordering on slander. You should all take a long look in the mirror.

  2. Joseph Buffington on May 5, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Sorry to see that this happened to you. Sadly jerks are in every walk of life and seem to enjoy runing it for the rest of us. I feel that what he did could easily be construed as fraud since he used your identity to promote something without your permission.

    One thing we can do is to never give this guy our business. It is the same with a restaraunt with rude servers, or any other business. You won’t win customers with rudeness or fraud.

  3. Eve on May 5, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Wow, he was definitely in the wrong. I haven’t noticed any of this happening, I guess I am too naive! I will be more aware when I click a link from now on!

    Eves last blog post..Florida Lawmakers Eliminate State Funding for Public Libraries

  4. Danielle Miller The Toolbox Teacher on May 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Hi Mari:

    I missed all of this yesterday as I was traveling and it was only a message that you sent me that caused me to delve into the situation further. I see Josh has apologized for this epic fail on his part. The most unfortunate part is that the owner of the company appears to be in no way responsible and yet it is his business that will suffer.

    Josh clearly did/does not understand that not everyone is on twitter simply to tell people what they had for lunch. It is, as you said, a strategic place for those of us who are trying to brand our business and at the same time add value and content to others.

    As you and I have talked personally on different occasions about our beliefs and values, I applaud you for taking a stand on this. It is difficult for those of us who are positive and optimistic people to allow any negativity in our lives to effect us. BUT as you pointed out relationships are integral to your business and allowing that compromise on your integrity is unacceptable.

    Take care dear lass:-) you did the right thing!

  5. Josh on May 5, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    HELLO – I’m @[removed], and I DID take responsibility for it. See my apology above. Talk about blind rhetoric…

  6. Rachel Lavern on May 5, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    “[removed]” lacks integrity. His INTENT was to deceive your followers.

    You called him on it, and now he does not want to take responsibility for his inappropriate actions.

  7. Steve Zagata on May 5, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Mr. [removed] already generated over 30 negative replies. In the end it’s a bad business decision. We need to interact with each other as if we were eye to eye. That is sometimes difficult on the internet being a faceless community.

  8. Josh on May 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Dear Mari,
    I apologize for hijacking your tweet. Not because I got caught, but obviously because what I did has deeply offended you; and apparently lots of people that read your blog. I have to assume that these people are genuine and not just trying to get an endorsement from you. I do think that it is kind of funny how seriously everyone is making this out to be. It was a transparent attempt (by me) to get people to click on a link. I admit it. I just figured people would realize it was half-way done in jest and move on. I didn’t realize that with one click of my Twhirl client that this would turn into a two day saga of the worst Tweet Fail in history. I want to clarify that I am not the owner of the [removed] company. I am the web guy, and I should have known better. The owner of the company is a really good guy, and the [removed] are superb. Again, I am very sorry to have offended you, and I appreciate the lesson on what a bad tweet can turn into. It was a moment of bad judgment on my part, and I hope you all will give us another chance.

  9. Tom Lewis on May 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Yuck. I had to wash my hands and unfollow after reading this. I follow almost anyone in the travel business and sure enough there was Mr. L. This is an open warning lesson for people to make sure you know who is representing your brand on Twitter, and that they know how you want it represented. Just a web guy is no excuse in my book. If your company has “just a web guy” tweeting in your name take note. He might have saved his skin with a quick and sincere apology. Mari you were 100% right on with your response.

  10. Diego Espinoza on May 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Yes, it is a free country, but what he’s doing is changing your tweet entirely. He can’t say that just because it is posted on the internet, he can do whatever he wants with it. What do you think he’d say if you take some images from his website and post them on another website? Of course he would be upset.
    I think he’s a total jerk for doing that, honestly. If hijacking tweets is your way to promote your own business, you got it all wrong.
    I totally support you here, Mari.

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