NBC News tries, fails, to eliminate tweets about Richard Engel’s disappearance

According to Gawker, NBC News has been asking reporters not to mention Richard Engel’s disappearance:

NBC News has been asking every reporter who inquires about the report to participate in a news blackout. It has also taken to Twitter and asked people who repeated the Turkish reports there to take them down. You can see here a screengrab of the Twitter account @NBCComm asking a Twitter user who had mentioned the reports to urgently call a cell phone number (that account has since been taken down).

Despite NBC’s efforts, the story is out; earlier this afternoon, “Richard Engel” was one of Twitter’s trending topics in the United States.

After a foreign media outlet broke the story about Engel yesterday, it was just a matter of time before the dam burst. By 3:10 am eastern time this morning, when Twitchy first covered the story, at least a half-dozen Americans had tweeted about it. Several of those tweets were subsequently deleted (see, for example, here and here), presumably at the request of NBC. But it was too late. The genie was out of the bottle.

For the record, nobody at NBC News or from Engel’s family has asked us to remove our story. We were not aware until we saw Gawker’s article that NBC News was asking media outlets not to discuss it. At this point, we see no reason to remove  it, since it is now being reported all over Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet.

We sympathize with NBC News execs. Clearly, they are trying to do what is best for Engel. But these execs may need to rethink how to handle situations like this in the era of Twitter and other social media. Once people are tweeting about a story, it is nearly impossible for any gatekeeper, no matter how large or powerful, to contain it.

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Update: At least one Twitter user is using Engel’s disappearance as an opportunity to bash Twitchy CEO/founder Michelle Malkin:

We’ll say it again:  By the time we became aware of a news blackout, the story had appeared in a widely-read blog and had been tweeted by thousands of people.

Update: Richard Engel and his crew have been freed after five days of captivity, according to NBC News.

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