Qantas' misguided Twitter tantrum

Qantas' push to get parody Twitter account @QantasPR banished reveals a worrying lack of understanding of how social media works, not to mention a poor sense of humour.

Really Qantas, really?

You didn’t think that Australians could tell the difference between a spoof Twitter account and the one from which you spew "the truth"?

Qantas confirmed to The Australian yesterday that it had successfully approached Twitter to have spoof account @QantasPR suspended for breaching Twitter’s impersonation policy.

“There were people that were tweeting the fake Qantas account and obviously thought it was endorsed by Qantas,'' a Qantas spokeswoman told the newspaper. 

The airline has since been slammed on Twitter for trying to ban humour, but beyond the obvious criticism it seems Qantas has forgotten the internet is the best copy machine ever invented, and Twitter is designed to take that ability to a whole new level. 

It didn’t take long for @QantasPR to start tweeting from a second account (@Qantas_PR), and those behind it haven’t lost their sense of humour, tweeting:

#qantas half-yearly financial results are out on Thursday. We're not off-shoring jobs, just ineffective Twitter accounts.”

An entertaining letter to Twitter,  from @QantasPR, has also been posted, pointing out that the account’s bio used the words “non-official” and that many users had acknowledged it was a parody account.

And support accounts are also appearing, including @qantasprpr and @Qantas_P_R.

Civil libertarian John Gilmore would no doubt have a few things to say about the decision of Twitter to carry out the suspension. In 1993 Gilmore proposed a concept that has since come to be known as Gilmore’s Law, stating that: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”.

“Internet users have proven it time after time, by personally and publicly replicating information that is threatened with destruction or censorship,” Gilmore says.

By seeking to censor a Twitter user, Qantas has only drawn more attention to its flawed view of social media and what it thinks it should be used for.

And if you were thinking Qantas was getting all serious about using Twitter for customer service, check out this interesting exchange:

@QantasAirways we were going to buy our flights to get married in Brisbane in May but your prices went up £200 overnight! Please help!”

To which @QantasAirways replied:

@kitfriend Hi, we wish we could help but unfortunately there isn't much we can do about the price of flights!”

Oh dear Qantas, I guess you think if people believe @QantasPR is real they will also believe the price of Qantas flights are set by someone other than Qantas.

Unfortunately this latest move by Qantas is just another in a long line of social media faux pas from Australian business and government.

Last year the Commonwealth Bank was forced to amend a policy that said it would punish employees that failed to report negative comments written about the bank on social media sites. 

Westpac this week defended its decision to delete negative comments posted about the bank from its Facebook page. Several of those comments came from employees of the bank.

And later this month we’ll hear more on the Victorian Parliament’s somewhat unnecessary inquiry into the use of social media within the gallery.

Qantas only recently found itself a permanent star of YouTube when a creative type posted a Downfall parody about the airline’s social media strategy. Qantas thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to get customers to talk about their “dream luxury flight experience” right after it decided to ground the airline last year. Customers felt otherwise.

In the video the parody version of Alan Joyce asks: “Can someone tell me how we can turn Twitter off? … Just for an hour or so”.

It would be funnier if fiction wasn’t so close to truth.

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