Twitter and Privacy: The Stetten-Presley Incident

Jun 11

On June 6th unknown model Melissa Stetten and reasonably well-known actor Brian Presley were seated together on a flight between Los Angeles and New York. According to the model Presley insisted on relating insights into his personal life as well as testing out some well worn pick-up line standards (paraphrasing; it must be fate that brought them together). Stetten’s response was to do a real-time reporting of the situation via Twitter. What made her tweets all the more potent was the fact that she kept followers updated on the unfolding event as well as receiving background info on the actor in return. Naturally there are few things more likely to go viral than a celebrity making a fool of him/herself or someone cleverly making a fool of a celebrity. So, Stetten’s celebrity news reporting on Twitter became a hot issue. One could argue that there are ethical issues involved in disclosing a personal encounter like this, and Presley being married and a recovered alcoholic did not appreciate the allegation that he was flirting with a young model while drinking beer. He disputes Stetten’s version of their dialogue.

Putting the ethical issues aside (as we so often do when dealing with social media!), the incident reminds us of some of the specifics regarding the nature of and the dangers of social media. Social Media expression hovers between oral and written communication, and it is this unique mode of expression that causes us problems. This combination of immediacy and permanence that a statement in social media has is something we need to be aware of at all times. Posting a tweet is just as immediate as an oral statement, but it can be immediately tagged and quoted and permanently attributed to the author. Deleting a post is a bit like trying to get a racing dog chasing a mechanical rabbit (do they actually do that?) back behind the gates. If it is out there flying, it’s gone.

What we really need is a filter – customized according to each individual. Imagine a time-lag as used on live coverage in American media to avoid the occasional four-letter word slipping through. Give yourself a few extra seconds to run through your own personal checklist (filter). For some, this might be a simple question like do I want my mom to read this? Or (if you are a celebrity), is this information I want my 80.000 followers to know?

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July 23: Michael Owen opens the Pandora’s Box

Twitter backlash

Football player (just let go from Manchester United) Michael Owen invited his followers to a Q&A on  Twitter. The majority of the questions were along the lines of: “Is it true you’ve pulled more hamstrings than women?” and “I’m building a bench for my backyard, any tips?” illustrating how most questions focused on his injury record and prolonged status as a substitute the last few seasons. Interaction on Twitter is great, but the Pandora’s Box nature of this should not be underestimated as surely Mr. Owen can testify to today!


June 9th: Celebrity on-air/ in the air tweet fest

the Stetten/Presley controversy on twitter

A model named Melissa Stetten found herself next to actor Brian Presley, a married actor (soaps), on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. She tweeted, in real time, about the alleged advances from Presley and caused quite a stir in the regular media world as well as the social medias. The two protagonists disagreed about the details of their dialogue as well as the necessity of publicizing it and Presley has denied (via Facebook) Stetten’s interpretation of the event. Entertaining as Stetten’s tweets may have been, the interesting side of the story is the questions raised regarding social media and privacy.


June 5th 2012: Starbucks with sour ‘Irish Coffee’

twitter logoStarbucks provoke Irish customers by Tweeting a show us that you are proud to be British campaign meant for their British followers. Starbucks say: We’re sorry. (source:

A lot of the time big brands make these types of mistakes out of (cultural) ignorance, but this is a perfect illustration of the consequences of trigger-happiness with corporate social media accounts!



18 May 2012: Facebook goes public

Facebook logoFacebook finally goes public. The stocks soar (to over 40$ a piece), only to plummet a few days later. The company is now anyway valued at more then 140$ billion.

We’ll leave it to the “experts” to decide whether or not Facebook is a sound investment.




16 March 2012: ‘Gaga’ over Twitter earnings

twitter logoAccording to the Wall Street Journal provocative song-bird Lady Gaga pockets 30$ million a year from her Twitter account. She is approaching 20 (!) millions users and engaging in the way she does with her followers boost her earnings by an estimate 30 mill.(source:

I am not entirely sure how they did the math, but the lesson to take away from this is, in any case, a simple one: engaging with your followers pays off!


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