How in world could anyone misquote my Tweet? BUT AFP DID!

If this journalist wonders about the state of the profession (which he loves or thinks he does) and how low it has fallen,  he has to wonder how in the world (to be very, very polite) can anyone with an ounce of  intelligence misquote a tweet, my tweet.  It’s only 140 characters!!!!! And any computer can copy and paste, right??? It should be easy to quote a tweet, right? Wrong!

As an  author, I regularly check myself in Google and to my horror I have found that a misquoted tweet from me has gone around the planet,  thanks to AFP, appearing in newspapers in Canada  and the world (thanks AFP).

So back to the beginning, I was following the debate about Elections Canada, which has the misfortune to enforce an antiquated law meant to promote election fairness across this vast country. Elections Canada reminded Canadians that it was illegal to reveal election results from one time zone to another.

Most of the debate on Twitter was about ordinary citizens doing the revelation by tweeting.  But, of course, the news media around the world are not bound by Canada’s rules and can report the results freely.  We’ve seen this on U.S. television for decades. On the last election night, when I was still working  for CBC, one of my jobs was to note sites and blogs that published the election results and write a story (that of course would not have gone up on the CBC election site until the polls closed in BC).  The first, if I remember correctly, for 2008, was a TV station in Atlanta.

So in the midst of the online debate, at 09:28, April 21, I tweeted

The Elections Canada ban is irrelevant. Watch for tweets from @bbcbreaking, @CNNbrk, @reuters, @AP, @BNO #elxn41 #novotetweet

 But when AFP wrote the story, the wire service moved only the first few words, not the complete quote.

The earliest use after my Tweet that I can find is  the Calgary Herald   and this is how AFP reported it:

Author Robin Rowland, tweeted from Kitimat, British Columbia: “The Elections Canada ban is irrelevant. Watch for tweets.”

which is not only a misquote, but a distortion of what I wrote.  (One also has to wonder why even when the new owners are cutting Post Media to the bone, why the Calgary Herald had to rely on AFP for a Canadian story???)

From there the story appears on Yahoo, (and sites that pick  up a feed from Yahoo), The Age in Australia, The Bangkok Post , Dawn in Pakistan, the MSN tech site,  (and MSN Finance), France 24, Univision,  and   And that’s just what I found on Google. Who knows what papers ran the story and didn’t put it up on their websites?

We’ve all mistakenly misquoted people in our careers, usually due to badly scribbled notes.  There have been cases of cut and past plagiarism (either accidental or deliberate).

But a cut and past misquote of a 140 character tweet?  That can only be described one way:


Update: 2046 PT  The story is still appearing, just showed up in a Google search showing Maxis, a Malaysian telecom has it on a news page.

Update 2   April 24  1345  PT.  The story is showing up in “past 24 hour”  Google searches, now mostly appearing  on aggregation sites.

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