A. We monitor the Twittersphere and quite often Twitter will alert you to a story that you weren't otherwise aware of. Sometimes the tweet will be the story. If somebody tweets a comment, then obviously very often we will -- the fact that somebody's tweeted that comment is the story. Obviously you have to be careful that it is genuinely the tweet from the person you think it is, and there have in the past been rogue tweets with fake accounts that have fooled other people on the Internet, but Twitter now takes steps to make sure that celebrity accounts are who they say they are, they verify it, so you know if an account is the person it claims to be. Quite often the tweet will be the story.
Q. Can I have some idea of the level of checking that your organisation goes to before publishing a tweet-based story? Will you contact the maker?
A. It depends. If it was a celebrity who tweeted a picture of themselves and a comment attached and that is -- then that is the story, and providing we know from previous experience that that tweet account is genuine, then the story is checked. That's it.
If the tweet was alleging something contentious, then obviously you would have to check it out in the normal way to normal journalistic standards. It depends.
Q. What steps do you take to ensure that tweets really are from who they say they are?
A. Unless they're verified accounts, then we treat them with huge suspicion.
Unfortunately, Barr did not then present Clarke with an example of MailOnline being fooled, which happened just last Saturday and was revealed by The Media Blog. MailOnline reported, in a now-deleted article:
(pic from The Media Blog)
The tweet in question had in fact come from the fake Twitter account @MissKatiePriice, not Katie Price's real account (which Price used to criticise the Mail's 'poor journalism').
And that wasn't exactly a one-off. In June 2010, the spoof Twitter account @ceostevejobs was the source for a Mail story, despite the clear announcement:
'Of course, this is a parody account'
Interesting, then, that Clarke, in saying 'there have in the past been rogue tweets with fake accounts that have fooled other people on the Internet', tries to pretend these things happened 'in the past' and only to 'others'.
And it's not just spoof accounts, but joke tweets mistaken for genuine news. In the case of Jeremy Vine getting special permission to play hymns on BBC radio, and Carol Vorderman renting a luxury yacht, MailOnline hacks completely failed to get a joke. Not exactly 'check[ing] it out in the normal way to normal journalistic standards'.