On this day of all days, please spare a thought, if you can, for Anthony Noto, the now-former CFO of Twitter, who, in 2014, registered social media’s first-ever M&A DM fail.
Said CFO accidentally sent out a public tweet, you see, that was intended to be a direct message (DM) about a hostile-takeover plan — standard operating procedure in the world of mergers and acquisitions, but not exactly material for public dissemination on Twitter.
And if the Chief Financial Officer of Twitter can be confused about social-media technology with a mind of its own, what chance does a Pakistan politician have when one of his minions — an unpaid intern, no less — triggers the wrong switch on Facebook’s DIY filters during a live-streamed media conference?
Pakistani regional minister Shaukat Yousafzai — no relation — was addressing his adoring public during his weekly conference via Facebook, when a volunteer on his team accidentally activated the cat filter, causing said minister to appear with digital cat ears, whiskers and puffed out cheeks.
Live viewers were quick to spot the gaffe, but in their haste to correct it, officials somehow managed to add the effect to officials sitting on either side of the minister. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which hosted the stream, deleted the video the moment the conference ended, but of course this is social media: You can delete all you want, but what appears on social media stays on social media.
Rumours of a fatwa on cats have proved to be unfounded — so far — but it’s always good to have a laugh, especially when world tensions are as high as they are right now: the climate crisis, looming conflict over shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf, a deficit of leadership in the industrialized world, etc., etc. Social media is often decried as forum for semi-literate grotesques to gather and throw insults at one another, and yet many of the comments responding to the Pakistan TI party’s official statement — it was “human error” — were kind and giving, along the lines of, ‘Anything that helps lighten tension in a dark global political climate’ is catnip for the soul.
A later statement by the PTI party took some of the bloom off the rose — “All necessary actions have been taken to avoid such incidents in future” — but the cat was already out of the bag.
Who knew Shaukat was a cat person? His official biography prefers to cite his credentials for public office as: veteran journalist, a former regional health minister of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, official representative of the ruling PTI party, and a senior advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
It may not always be possible to make lemonade out of lemons, but it’s always worth a try. A later statement — yes, another one! — said the PTI party felt proud to have brought Pakistani politics to the internet.
Not to mention cats.