Anthony Weiner: How Twitter's features tripped him up

Rep. Anthony Weiner apparently confused Twitter's "message" function with its "mention" function. Here's how to keep them straight.

Jake Turcotte/The Christian Science Monitor
The next time he goes on Twitter, Rep. Anthony Weiner would do well to distinguish between 'mention' and 'message.'

So it turns out that Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account wasn't hacked after all. The New York Democrat admitted in a press conference Monday that the anonymous nether regions posted on his RepWeiner feed were, in fact, his, and that he had posted the photo himself.

"Last Friday night I Tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle," Weiner said to the assembled press corps.

Weiner's fatal mistake – though certainly not his only one – was confusing Twitter's "direct message" feature with its "mention" feature. As the name implies, a direct message can be viewed only by the recipient. You can send direct messages only to people who follow you on Twitter.

A mention, by contrast, can be seen by everyone on the Web, which is what happened, briefly, with Weiner's photo.

So how did Weiner mix up the two? To send a direct message, you type the letter "d" followed by a space, followed by the recipient's Twitter handle, as in "d recipient." To send a mention, you type the character "@" followed by the recipient's handle, as in "@recipient." It's possible that Weiner could have simply mixed up the two when he sent the infamous photo on Friday.

Or it could have been a more subtle error. Buried in Twitter's support pages is an ominous warning to all those using text message feature on their phone to send direct messages:

Note: If your message is longer than 140 characters and Twitter receives it intact, we will send your message in two parts for you. But, beware: if your service provider breaks up long messages into two parts before sending the message to Twitter, we will only see the d+username attached to the first message! The second part will post to the public time line as a regular update because it doesn't have the d+username preceding it.

The moral? Whether it's an email, a tweet, or a Facebook status update, always double-check before you hit "send."

Oh, and don't take lewd pictures of yourself and send them to random women on the Internet.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.