9/11 As-It-Happened Twitter Account Sparks Controversy

    September 12, 2011
    Josh Wolford

At what point does history and remembrance cross the line into strange territory?

For some, tweeting the events of 9/11, as they happened, would qualify as going too far. A particular Twitter account, set up by The Guardian, sparked some controversy over the weekend with its straightforward documentation of the events of 9/11, tweeted in “real-time.”

The account, @911tenyearsago, made their first tweet yesterday morning, saying “Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari board American Airlines Flight 11 at Boston Logan airport.”

Fifteen tweets later, they account stopped tweeting, saying “This account of the events is now ending.” The last thing they tweeted in real-time was that President George W. Bush had been told about the attacks while visiting a Florida elementary school, (the famous My Pet Goat incident).

Here are some of yesterday’s tweets from the account –

‘I think we’re getting hijacked’. Betty Ong tells American Airlines via airphone of the stabbing of two fellow attendants on Flight 11 1 day ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Flight 11 crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99 1 day ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Flight 77 is hijacked 1 day ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

This account of the events is now ending 1 day ago via web · powered by @socialditto

The @911tenyearsago account, due to major backlash from many in the Twitterverse, was forced to abandon its retelling of the day in “real-time.” Here are some of the tweets directed at the account –

I don’t see the purpose of @911tenyearsago . What will it achieve? Surely it’s just bringing back terrible memories, this time in detail 1 day ago via Echofon · powered by @socialditto

@911tenyearsago @omgitsc I think tweeting the events in real time like that is perverse. 1 day ago via Twitter for iPhone · powered by @socialditto

I usually have unending respect for the Guardian, but @911tenyearsago is both grotesque and utterly pointless. Why? 1 day ago via Twitter for iPhone · powered by @socialditto

While The Guardian created a separate account for the sole purpose of “live-tweeting” the events of 9/11, other organizations like the AP mixed in real-time 9/11 updates with other news and tweets about the 9/11 memorial and such –

9/11 10 years ago: 10:28 a.m. – North tower of trade center collapses. 22 hours ago via CoTweet · powered by @socialditto

And they also received a bit of backlash from some regarding the tweets –

@AP is a play-by-play of 9-11 events to the minute really necessary? 22 hours ago via Twitter for iPad · powered by @socialditto

But the AP didn’t stop tweeting the events of 9/11 early, like the @911tenyearsago account did. They tweeted all the way up to the second tower collapse. Although, it is entirely possible that the AP planned on tweeting more “real-time” 9/11 updates, but stopped based on some of the negative response.

There is a slight difference in the two Twitter accounts, however. For one, the AP’s tweets were mixed in with other 9/11 news, like updates about the opening of the memorial. The entire AP account was not being used for the sole purpose of real-time 9/11 tweets. The @911tenyearsago account was specifically set up for one purpose: the 9/11 play-by-play.

This writer can definitely understand how some people could see this as distasteful. To this day, people still carry painful emotional wounds when it comes to 9/11. Reliving the day in real-time runs the risk of hurting people, that’s for sure.

But how is this Twitter account any different from the incredibly popular practice of TV stations re-airing their 9/11 coverage, unedited? For 10 years now on the anniversary of 9/11, millions have watched the taped footage of the events as they happened. It’s pretty obvious that The Guardian meant no harm by setting up the @911tenyearsago account, but it’s also obvious that is offended a good amount of people.

What do you think about some organizations taking to Twitter yesterday to tweet out the events of 9/11 as they occurred 10 years ago? At what point does “keeping the memory alive” turn into an unnecessary dredging of the past? Let us know in the comments.

[Hat tip to Google+Reader”>The Next Web]