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So, you know it's 2012 when . . . an offhand comment from a presidential candidate spawns a satiric Twitter feed from a beloved yellow PBS bird claiming he's been fired, which goes viral, and then Twitter suspends the feed, which causes an outcry that resonates across cyberspace with even the president himself weighing in, and then Twitter restores that feed to massive digital cheers, all in about 18 hours.
Such is the brief, glorious, ridiculous history of FiredBigBird, whose happy yellow face (looking not a bit like someone who just got sacked) appeared on Twitter Wednesday night, early in the presidential debate between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
The spark was Romney's declaration that although, "I love Big Bird," he favors cutting funding to PBS as part of an effort to decrease the deficit. A surge of tweets about the "Sesame Street" star followed, including this reference to Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.):
"Somewhere Paul Ryan is kicking over trash cans in hopes of smoking out Oscar the Grouch," said the first of dozens of tweets from FiredBigBird.
The pace of tweets picked up Thursday morning, as did the account's number of followers, which leapt into the tens of thousands.
The ride abruptly ended around lunchtime. Those looking for FiredBigBird got a message from Twitter announcing that the account had been suspended.
Shock ensued, prompting Jim Romenesko to report the development on his media news website.
But the suspension didn't last long. An email from Twitter to the man behind FiredBigBird reported that the account was suspended for "sending multiple unsolicited messages using the reply and/or mention feature."
The same email announced the account had been reinstated. FiredBigBird soon sent a tweet to his followers, now about 26,000 and counting, joking that Obama's stimulus funding had come through, allowing for his revival.
Twitter's terms of service for Twitter lists 20 reasons why its automatic spam filter might suspend an account, including some that might happen accidentally during a few hours of frenetic tweeting.
In an email interview, the man behind FiredBigBird gave an outline of himself: He is a 28-year-old Washington area man with a dog and no affiliation with the Obama camp. He said he's employed but wouldn't name a line of work.
The tweets flowed quickly after the account was reinstated, and FiredBigBird seemed to be enjoying himself. That was about 3 p.m. Then FiredBigBird was suspended again, as was FiredOscar.
But FireMeElmo was still going strong. As evening approached, he reached out to his feathered friend: "Where Big Bird staying tonight? Elmo evicted."