Racist tweet: Media firm sacks PR chief

Racist tweet: Media firm sacks PR chief

SINGAPORE - The public relations head of a large online media firm was sacked over the weekend for a racist tweet, in an episode reminiscent of the 2012 Amy Cheong saga that whipped up a digital firestorm in Singapore.

And in a parallel to the sequence of events in Miss Cheong's case, the US sacking has also belatedly triggered a discussion of the perils of Twitter and whether the online lynch mob overreacted.

It all began last Friday, when Ms Justine Sacco, before getting on a flight from London to Cape Town for a holiday, tweeted: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get Aids. Just kidding. I'm white!"

Ms Sacco was then the PR director for the New York Internet conglomerate that owns The Daily Beast, Vimeo and Match.com.

For the next 12 hours, as she remained airborne and disconnected from the Internet, the tweet took on a life of its own. It was retweeted thousands of times throughout the world with many condemning the tweet as offensive, disgusting and racist.

Others were incredulous that a woman who made a living doing public relations for a large media and Internet firm could have committed such a faux pas.

On Sunday, her employer, InterActive Corp, announced that it was parting ways with Ms Sacco.

A day later, Ms Sacco - who had taken down her Twitter and Facebook pages - issued a statement apologising for her tweet: "Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologise to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet."

Miss Cheong made the headlines last year when she lost her job as a National Trades Union Congress executive for posting an insulting message on Facebook.

As was the case then, Ms Sacco's episode also had some questioning the vindictive nature of some of the reactions. Others argued that people should not be destroyed because of a single tweet.

jeremyau@sph.com.sg


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