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.
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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.