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Sun 1 Jan 2012 01:16 PM

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Celebs may curb Twitter talk after 2011 blunders

Resolutions for the rich, famous may be to avoid tweeting into trouble in 2012

Celebs may curb Twitter talk after 2011 blunders
Ashton Kutcher is one of many celebs to have fallen foul of Twitter

Celebrities may resist the urge to send a stream of
consciousness on Twitter in the new year, after famous people tweeted their way
into trouble on everything from boxer briefs to breast-feeding in 2011.

NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne became the latest celebrity to
blunder on Twitter, when he recently had to apologize for a tweet critical of
public breast-feeding.

But Kahne has been far from alone in discovering Twitter's
pitfalls. The year 2011 saw Congressman Anthony Weiner resign in a scandal that
began with an errant tweet, and the musings of Hollywood stars such as the tech
savvy Ashton Kutcher and comic Gilbert Gottfried generated public controversy.

As a result of those and other scandals, 2011 may be seen as
a turning point when more celebrities and politicians saw the dangers of
Twitter and quit sending unfiltered messages, pop culture experts said.

The public already knows speeches and even snappy quips from
public figures are often scripted, so fans are likely to understand if the
handlers of celebrities play a larger role in managing their Twitter accounts.

"There was a time from 2008 to 2011 where Twitter was
like, whatever was on your mind you tweeted about it -- literally
mindlessly," said radio host Cooper Lawrence, author of "The Cult of
Celebrity."

"Now you're going to see the other side of the bell
curve, where people are more cautious. Politicians are already more
cautious," she said.

In Washington, D.C., no better example of a Twitter train
wreck can be found than the career of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a once
influential Democrat from New York.

The spark that led to revelations about Weiner and his
resignation in June was a tweet he sent to a female college student, with a
lewd photo of his underwear.

"That guy has become now the patron saint of warning
people that communicating from the id, which is exactly what Twitter is
designed to do, can end up being a really, really bad idea," said Bob
Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried did not have his career ruined by
Twitter, but it cost him a lucrative gig.

Gottfried fired off several joke tweets in March about the
devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In one message, he said:
"Japan is really advanced. They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to
them."

Gottfried was roundly criticized in the media, and insurance
company Aflac Inc fired him as the voice of its iconic duck in television
commercials.

"Being the Aflac voice was a large portion of his
income, and not being able to do that for years and years to come is going to
cost him millions of dollars," said Jo Piazza, author of the book
"Celebrity, Inc: How Famous People Make Money."

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More than other celebrities, actor Ashton Kutcher has been a
master of Twitter. Kutcher became the first to have a million followers on the
site. He also created the online production company Katalyst and embarked on
lucrative promotion campaigns for such products as Popchips.

All of that made it believable when Kutcher in September was
given a starring role as a billionaire technology guru on hit television comedy
"Two and a Half Men."

Kutcher took over from actor Charlie Sheen, who clashed with
the show's co-creator and raised eyebrows on Twitter with descriptions of
himself as "winning."

In November, Kutcher created a public uproar when he tweeted
a defense of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired in the
fallout from a sexual abuse scandal that centered on assistant coach Jerry
Sandusky.

Kutcher apologized in a blog post, and said he did not know
about the abuse scandal when he sent the off-the-cuff tweet that read,
"How do you fire Jo Pa?" He also pledged to have his staff at
Katalyst manage his Twitter account, as opposed to posting on his own as he had
done before.

The 33-year-old actor wrote that Twitter has turned into a
"mass publishing platform" in which tweets can quickly "become
news that is broadcast around the world and misinformation becomes volatile
fodder for critics."

Experts say Kutcher's Twitter mistake and his decision to
alter the way he uses the site could serve as a lesson to others. "Because
after all, he is a master of the form," Thompson said.

The recent controversy surrounding Kasey Kahne shows that
not only a celebrity's tweet, but also the response to other online commentators
can generate trouble.

He originally posted a comment about encountering a mother
breast-feeding at a supermarket. "Took second look because I was obviously
seeing things. I wasn't!" he wrote.

But Kahne faced just as much heat for a crude comment
directed at a woman online who criticized his view on public breast-feeding.
The racer later apologized for both messages.

Other notable Twitter controversies of 2011 include film
critic Roger Ebert's tweet, "Friends don't let jackasses drink and
drive," which was sent in response to the impaired driving death of
"Jackass" star Ryan Dunn.

In a less inflammatory Twitter misfire, Charlie Sheen in
December revealed his phone number, in an apparent attempt to send it privately
to teen singer Justin Bieber.

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