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Politico's HHS Twitter Story: Blowing The Doors Off A Scandal

First Posted: 07/01/10 03:57 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:55 PM ET

Ciroc

If you're wondering what the Politicoiest story of the day is, try this one on for size: "Administration site promotes vodka, P. Diddy."

It's the incredibly true story of how the Department of Health and Human Services obtained a Twitter handle from another user, who had apparently "favorited" some tweets pertaining to the aforementioned vodka and rapper. It took some time for the new owners to get it all sorted out, but they eventually did. At no time was anything at stake at all but Politico got a Drudge link out of it, so the system works, I am pleased to report!

This all started when the Department of Health and Human Services, having set up a brand-new website -- HealthCare.Gov -- went in search of a matching Twitter account. They settled on @healthcaregov -- a previously owned handle that was nonetheless inactive. HHS sought and received permission from the account's former user to take it over. But, said former user had "favorited" several "tweets."

Okay, for people who don't know or don't care, when a Twitter user encounters a tweet that makes them LOL or have a deep thought or that changes their life in some appreciable way, they have the option to select that tweet as a "favorite." Doing so allows the Twitter user to put these great tweets on an accessible list, which they can look at when they want to feel nostalgia for that time they liked something on Twitter. The former user of "@healthcaregov" apparently "favorited" some tweets from rapper P. Diddy, in which he extolled Ciroc vodka, Halloween, and how good Halloween is when you have some Ciroc vodka.

Politico's Sarah Kliff seems to understand this, but nevertheless presses ahead, with a story that's just packed with misinformation. By doing so, Politico gets to suggest the following things: 1) the "administration site promote[d] vodka, P. Diddy" (it didn't), 2) going to "HealthCare.Gov" would have allowed users to "learn some not so health-related information -- like that HealthCare.Gov enjoys P. Diddy and Indian politicians" (not true, you could have only have learned that by going to the Twitter page and clicking on "favorites"), 3) a tweet from Diddy about Halloween "apparently struck a chord with the Federal agency" (it didn't, and the preceding paragraph of the story proves that Kliff knows this) and 4) that the "HHS seemingly liked" another tweet about vodka (one can only really say "seemingly" if one is not in possession of the facts, which this reporter is).

About three-quarters of the way through, readers finally hear, for the first time, about how this Twitter account was held by another user prior to being obtained by the Department of Health and Human Services, and that it was this previous owner who had "favorited" all those tweets. At that point, the question is: "That seems very self-explanatory, so why were there all those paragraphs that talked about how the HHS was into Ciroc vodka?" And the answer is: "Because this newspaper literally hates you and wants you to feel bad."

According to the story, "HHS did not respond immediately to questions about the favorites list." And who could blame them? They must have thought the reporter was deranged.

[H/T: Jim Newell]

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