National Lottery apologises after social media initiative backfires

Users exploit Twitter stunt to leave messages like "Justice for Saville"

The National Lottery has issued an apology after a social media stunt on Twitter backfired spectacularly, resulting in the charity's official account inadvertently tweeting offensive messages.

As part of The National Lottery's sponsorship of the World Athletics Championships in London, the company ran a social media campaign whereby users that retweeted certain messages would be greeted by one of Team GB's athletes holding signs thanking them for their support.

Advertisement - Article continues below

However, users of the social network were baffled as British athletes such as Tom Bosworth and Sophie Hitchon were pictured holding signs bearing slogans including "Bolt's a roid head" and "Justice for Saville" (sic).

Early analysis indicates that the system worked by taking the Twitter display name of users that retweeted a given tweet, and digitally adding it to the boards held by the athletes.

However, it appears that Twitter's more mischievous users quickly realised that the integration would do this regardless of the content of an account's display name, and started exploiting this in order to force the account to spread distasteful and offensive messages.

A public apology stating it was "hugely sorry for any offence caused" was posted on Twitter and the posts in question were deleted.

IT Pro contacted Camelot for comment and was issued the following statement: "We are aware that some people were maliciously targeting our British Athletics Twitter campaign overnight on Monday 14 August with offensive and abhorrent content. We have disabled the campaign, deleted the inappropriate tweets from our feed and are continuing to look into exactly what happened. We are hugely sorry for any offence caused to our players, the athletes concerned and British Athletics by this deliberate act."

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Many have criticised the organisation for not thinking the stunt through thoroughly enough, saying the charity should have more closely moderated the content generated by users.

The incident is not the first case of a company landing itself in hot water by letting social media users have a say over something. A poll to let fans name a new flavour of Mountain Dew infamously resulted in the top spot being claimed by the name "Hitler did nothing wrong" - although the company eventually went with 'Apple' instead.

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/marketing-comms/social-media/354837/twitter-bans-70-pro-bloomberg-accounts
social media

Twitter bans 70 pro-Bloomberg accounts

23 Feb 2020

Most Popular

Visit/security/privacy/355155/zoom-kills-facebook-integration-after-data-transfer-backlash
privacy

Zoom kills Facebook integration after data transfer backlash

30 Mar 2020
Visit/infrastructure/server-storage/355118/hpe-warns-of-critical-bug-that-destroys-ssds-after-40000-hours
Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020
Visit/software/355113/companies-offering-free-software-to-fight-covid-19
Software

These are the companies offering free software during the coronavirus crisis

25 Mar 2020
Visit/cloud/355098/ibm-dedicates-supercomputing-power-to-coronavirus-researchers
high-performance computing (HPC)

IBM dedicates supercomputing power to coronavirus research

24 Mar 2020