At a news conference on Monday, embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., admitted that the infamous lewd photograph he sent last week was actually meant to be sent to 21-year-old Gennette Cordova as a direct message.
“I intended to send [the photo] as a direct message as a part of a joke to a woman in Seattle,” Weiner said.
(PICTURES: Political sex scandals)
But Weiner’s direct message ended up being sent as a public tweet—a rather common occurrence. A simple slip of his hand could have been the culprit.
Had Weiner properly sent the tweet as a direct message to Cordova, he would have had to type “D GennetteC [picture].” Instead, Weiner typed “@GennetteC [picture].”
Unless the direct message syntax is perfectly formed, it becomes a public tweet. People are people, and they make mistakes, and your private message suddenly becomes public.
Another aspect of this story is that in order to send someone a direct message on Twitter, they must follow you. As ABC News and other outlets noted last week, of the few people Weiner follows on Twitter, a number of them are young women, like Cordova. So in order for Weiner to have private, back-and-forth conversations with these women on Twitter, they had to have been followed by him.
Another privacy issue is the fact that Weiner used yFrog to share the photos. While he could have uploaded the photo to yFrog and only included it in a (successful) direct message, the photo would still be public. That’s because yFrog (and other popular Twitter photo-sharing services, like Twitpic, for that matter) display photos in a timeline format. So anyone who ventured to this site (before Weiner deleted all of his photos) could have simply clicked through and seen all the photos he uploaded, regardless of whether or not they were publicly tweeted.
As Weiner learned the hard way, nothing is truly private on Twitter.