‘Inappropriate’ tweet prompts social media clampdown at DOJ

July 19, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, so someone was bound to notice a very odd tweet from the official Justice account on Tuesday morning.

The post retweeted a CNN story about allegations that Melania Trump plagiarized lines in her speech to the Republican National Convention from Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech. That alone was very unusual for an account that ordinarily posts only Justice Department press releases and speeches. But the tweet also included commentary, “CNN is the biggest troll of them all,” the Internet slang phrase “lmao,” and the hashtag #petty, which Donald Trump supporters are using to describe the Melania Trump plagiarism flap.

The Justice Department immediately deleted the errant tweet, but not before screenshots began ricocheting around the Internet, where the post was greeted with both amusement and criticism.

Within hours, the Justice Department issued an explanation. “A staffer in the public affairs office erroneously used the official Department of Justice Twitter handle to post a tweet that was intended for a personal account,” a spokeswoman said in an email statement. “The tweet does not represent the Department’s views and was inappropriate for the Department of Justice’s official account.”

Justice said it has revoked the unidentified staffer’s access to its official social media accounts and has implemented new procedures to make sure this mishap won’t be repeated. “The Justice Department takes this matter very seriously and will continue to take the appropriate steps to prevent it from happening in the future,” the statement said.

The 2016 campaign has been singular in countless ways – from the only major party nomination of a female candidate to the only announcement of a vice-presidential selection via Twitter – and now we have another historic first to add to the list. Assuming the new Justice Department protocols are effective, Tuesday’s tweet will be the first and last time the department’s official account calls a major news outlet a troll while laughing its ass off.

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