Dallas police Twitter miscue highlights social media pitfalls

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on June 30, 2014 at 5:58 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 30 at 6:31 PM

DALLAS -- In a matter of seconds, a simple tweet of 140 characters (or less) can have a devastating impact.

“They can really harm someone's life," said digital strategist Mike Merrill.

Dallas police learned that the hard way after Sunday morning's tweet that Denver Broncos defensive back Aqib Talib had been arrested at a downtown nightclub for public intoxication.

Aqib Talib is from Garland, but wasn't at the club that night.

He was asleep in Denver.

Three hours later, Dallas police sent another tweet saying it was, in fact, Aqib Talib's brother who had been arrested.

But the original tweet had already made the rounds.

“They are trying to beat the media at the media game, and unfortunately, they don't know how to play it," said Chris Livingston, an attorney for the Dallas Police Association.

Many North Texas police departments have turned to Twitter to get information out, and Monday the Texas Motor Speedway created an exclusive media Twitter account.

"I think there is a danger in a lot of people playing journalism; journalists are there for a reason," Merrill said. "They vet their sources and do investigations to confirm before they make something public, that it is the person they are talking about."

The tweet was sent out by the major in charge of the Dallas Police Department's public information office.

"This can erode confidence, and are we really going to trust what they say next time?" Merrill asked.

News 8 asked the department if there would be an investigation, or if changes would be made to their social media policy. They told us they had no further comment.

"I think those that retweet or share content just need to take a breath and insure they have the right information," Merrill said.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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