Yup, there it is in black and white.
Over the last few days, Ms Gillian McKeith has been causing quite a storm on twitter by misusing the service, and then trying to back away and deny it. This would maybe have worked, if the service wasn’t also used by a number of very tech-savvy people, who know that the best policy is to save and screenshot everything, so that when the inevitable denials come, there is proof. It seems that Gillian would have been better off investing in a fake PhD in Social Media, and perhaps this all wouldn’t have happened.
So, where on earth did it all start? Well, It seems to have started with a woman called Rachel Moody, who noted on twitter that she was about to start reading a chapter in Bad Science (by Ben Goldacre) about Gillian McKeith. This prompted a series of pretty nasty replies from Gillian, claiming that the poster was anti-american, that Goldacre was a liar, and other such statements. Unfortunately for her, some clever sort decided to take a screenshot of the tweets, which meant that when Gillian decided to back pedal and delete the tweets, pretending they never happened, the screenshots remained. Image source: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/gillian_mckeith_does_not_have.php
Clearly worried about her image, Gillian has been trying to distance herself from this twitter account, first by beginning to tweet in the third person, as if it were someone else behind the account, and then by posting explicit declarations that it wasn’t her – “Do you actually believe this is real twitter site for the GM?” For a moment, you might be tempted to believe that it was all an elaborate hoax. For just a moment though, until you begin some basic fact checking, and discover that it’s essentially just another lie to add to the pile.
You see, what Gillian forgot is that you can’t suddenly delete yourself from the internet, because there will always be a remainder somewhere – be it in a cache, in a screenshot, or in the lazy code where you don’t properly remove the twitter link from your official website, but instead merely comment out the code…
Unfortunately, many people know how to look at website source code, and so it was immediately obvious what had happened. If more proof were needed, well one would only have to look at a screenshot taken from her website earlier today, where the twitter link was in pride of place alongside her other social media badges. Luckily, I have just such a screenshot.
People have been finding other forgotten links all over her website too – links in email newsletters and on less prominent pages, all encouraging you to follow Gillian on twitter, at her official address, www.twitter.com/gillianmckeith – it seems that the lazy webmaster also forgot to remove links beyond the front page.
What has the response been? Well, aside from roundly ignoring any requests for clarification, Gillian has been blocking people who tweet that she doesn’t have a PhD or other similar statements.What could have been solved with an apology, and a clarification, has instead turned into a nasty little mess and a PR disaster. Still, there are lessons to be learned here for all parties involved; 1) The print screen button should be your best friend when dealing with people like Gillian McKeith, who is a quack of the highest order, 2) Having a fake PhD doesn’t make you smart, and 3) Clicking “Undo” on the internet is a good deal harder than you might think.
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Gillian points us to her official twitter – at www.twitter.com/gillianmckeith. Can’t figure out why that url seems so familiar…