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Justine Sacco on Twitter

twitterbirdHas Justine Landed Yet? #HasJustineLandedYet

That was the sensational question last night as Justine Sacco, a PR executive with IAC in New York City, flew between London and Cape Town, South Africa. During her London layover she had tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”.

What ensued was a frenzy on Twitter.

At first several people found and commented on the tweet. Then somehow people found out that she was actually flying into Africa real time, and perhaps did not have access to the internet and the storm of reaction to what seemed to her hours before as a harmless tweet.

For hours people on Twitter posted comments, outrage, jokes and pictures (real and joking) of Justine – including commenting on her older tweets, some of which were pretty offensive, too. And yet her tweet remained, stirring the viral mob to believe that she had no idea what was awaiting her as she landed. Pictures of a media delegation in the terminal surfaced, her company issued a statement, and her name was pulled off the website. The wheels were in motion for a viral sensation.

The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet became #1 in Twitter has the comments and pictures were flying fast and furious. Then as the plane apparently approached Cape Town, not only did the most offensive tweet disappear, Justine Sacco’s entire twitter account was removed. We undoubtedly will find out how she found out, and what steps were done at that point.

During the flight someone bought her domain name and set up a link to an AIDS charity. How’s that for quick thinking?

And why in the world would a person in marketing NOT have their name reserved in the domain register? Mind boggling!

Wow – the power of Twitter and social media! Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin so far have not defended her rights to free speech like they have with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Maybe that’s still to come. Is the reality show “Justine” far behind?

Folks sure can get riled up, especially when in this case a highly insensitive tweet was combined with the issue of the writer not knowing or being able to respond, stuck on a plane for hours, while the world researched and debated. Makes you want to check those last tweets and sign-up for the in-flight internet access, eh?

Happy tweeting!

About Doug Bruhnke

Growth Nation is a global full-service marketing and business growth firm that creates more leads, stronger brands and higher revenue for clients in technology, manufacturing, healthcare and professional services. Our growth process has created over $1 billion of new revenue.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me that these fiercely intelligent people make such dumb insensitive mistakes. Thanks for sharing Doug.

  2. It’s who we grew up with and surround ourselves with. A comment she made might be easily spoken and joked about at the dinner table in a certain household to a friendly crowd, but Twitter and other social media forums have a much more diverse population. Tweeters beware. It’s important to know what’s OK in your small circle that may not be OK with others, and how anything we say impacts personal and company brands. Thanks.

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