Labour MP Tom Watson was the trending topic Thursday afternoon on Twitter, after having had his account tom_watson hijacked by a parliamentary intern while he was away from his desk in a meeting.
The intern in question, believed to be a 21-year-old female, tweeted a message at 12.30pm GMT from Watson’s account, saying: “I should log out of my twitter so that my intern doesn’t twit-rape me...”
Fifteen minutes later, after the post was re-tweeted and replied to numerous people following the MP, she realised her “terrible mistake”, and tweeted a further message: “My boss is in a meeting, i've made a terrible mistake, im very sorry everyone, it wasn't meant to be offensive! logging him off now! sorry!”
The politician logged onto his Twitter account twenty minutes later to apologise for the tweet, stating that his intern was “very sorry”, had learned a lesson and that he would “deal with the matter offline”.
The incident has attracted comments from hundreds of users in the last three hours, all trending on the hashtag topic #SaveTheIntern.
The Daily Telegraph reported that in response to some of these tweets, Watson has said that the intern will not be sacked, and that she is on a year-long placement.
The practice of playing a prank on someone by changing their status to something potentially embarrassing or amusing on social networks like Facebook or Twitter is a rising one amongst young adult users, that is often known as “frape” (on Facebook) or “twit-rape”.
Twitter user welsh_gas_doc explained that some users do not realise the consequences of pranks on social networks.
“It's easy to write something on Twitter that seems a good idea at the time, but then backfires and causes no end of stress,” he said.
The unfortunate intern has inadvertently restarted discussions on the management of online reputations, with Twitter users wondering whether Labour have proper policies about social media.
“Interns fault? Maybe not. Can we trust MPs to govern when they can’t manage their own security at basic level? “ is one such as a comment from user Jonathan Guttridge (JGuttridge).
Other users are wondering if this is an elaborate publicity stunt instead of a foolish mistake. Twitter user Katie Jackson (KittyStory) noted that Tom Watson has garnered over 700 new followers in three hours and that the intern is a “social media whizzard”.
While some users joined the trending topic in support of the intern, worrying that she might be fired, yet others were full of criticism of her actions and concerned about the phrase “rape” being used as a joke.
Users also used the opportunity to bring up the controversial topic of how some MPs still use unpaid parliamentary interns and to campaign for them to be paid, trending an additional topic, #paytheintern.