The Dangers of Spinning on Twitter- or just Communicating on Twitter

For anyone that read the New York Times article on March 24 stating that General Electronic (GE) neglected to pay US taxes last year, it might have left a sour taste in their mouths. But before they could even finish leaving one of the 975 comments on the article, GE’s public affairs department was busy spinning responses on Twitter.

As Henry Blodget, Editor in Chief for Business Insider, explains in his article published later that day, he quickly began speaking with GE to get its side of the story, and the Twitter responses were quite interesting, to say the least.

First, GE asked Blodget (note: all correspondence took place via Twitter) to stop the misleading attacks as published in the New York Times (NYT), saying it had paid $2.7B in cash taxes in 2010. When Blodget challenged the GE response posing that “Consolidated tax rate last few yrs is lower than historical avg & statutory rate, but (NYT) grossly oversimplified the facts” GE went silent before replying with a 140-character or less response that Blodget noted as a “non-answer.”

As GE remained silent to more of Blodget’s pleas for clarification, he began theorizing that perhaps the NYT had been referring to federal income tax while GE was speaking to global taxes. But then after 30 minutes of silence GE clarified saying that it had paid significant federal tax along with more than $1B in payroll, state and local taxes, thus making the NYT article completely inaccurate.

This sparked Blodget to further probe GE, asking if the paid taxes were then refunded by the government or if its skillful Twitter wording meant that GE executives paid federal taxes. But GE remained silent, thus making Blodget convinced GE has been spinning its story.

But as this Twitter drama further unravels (and to make a long story a bit shorter), a representative contacted Blodget directly with another lie and NYT said there was not a single factual inaccuracy, leading Blodget to ask the GE rep to clarify her misleading comment.

And today, four days later, GE remains silent and caught in a Twitter web of lies.

After seeing this story unfold, it’s easy to point the finger at GE claiming it indeed neglected to pay any US taxes and it was flat out spinning a web of inaccuracies on Twitter, but can’t this go back to the age old issue of people misunderstanding written communication over verbal communication?

Moreover, you have 140 characters on Twitter to provide an explanation and set a story straight, can that be accurately accomplished or is this something that should be taken offline?

What are your thoughts?

-By Christine Rojewski

This entry was posted in Christine Rojewski, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink.

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