Is This the Worst Twitter Typo Ever?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 8 2013 2:03 PM

Should Autocorrect Save You From Using the N-Word?

Dan Pfeiffer Twitter typo
A bigger typo, Twitter has rarely seen.

Screenshot / Twitter

Dan Pfeiffer, deputy communications director for the White House, tweeted today that he was very pleased with an NBC News article that mentioned the role of cable and the Internet in political polarization. And then he tried to tweet that this was "a much bigger factor on the right" than on the left. One problem: The "b" key is right next to the "n" key.

Advertisement

The slip-up prompted an immediate apology from Pfeiffer and an interesting suggestion from a Gawker commenter: Should autocorrect or spell-check programs flag offensive slurs along with typos, especially on a public platform like Twitter?

Obviously this would get inconvenient if you were in the habit of tweeting about, say, the racial politics of Huckleberry Finn. For a lot of people, though, a quick algorithmic double-check of racially charged language might be a welcome safety mechanism. Gmail has a dialog box that asks, "Did you mean to attach files?" Maybe Twitter's could say, "Did you mean to use one of the most inflammatory words in the English language?" It does seem a bit odd that spell-check and grammar-check programs give you a hard time about typing "it's" where you might have meant "its" but blithely assume that you intended to type the n-word instead of "bigger."

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Politico Wonders Why Gabby Giffords Is So “Ruthless” on Gun Control

Behold
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?