Timehop

Timehop 9/11 blunder comes back in viral tweet 4 years later

'The internet doesn't forget.'

Sep 11, 2018, 5:43 pm*

Tech

Kris Seavers 

Kris Seavers

A tweet that went viral on Tuesday showed a disturbing 9/11 screengrab from the Timehop app. While the image is real, it’s four-years-old. Fortunately, the app has since learned its lesson about how to present what, for most, is a heart-wrenching memory.

Timehop, if you’re unfamiliar, is an app that accesses a user’s Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts to present a personalized “on this day” view of history. For example, if you posted a photo from your niece’s birthday to Facebook in 2013, you’ll get to relive it every year thanks to the digital photo album.

Of course, there are some things that are more emotionally taxing to remember—like the 2016 presidential election or the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history. So imagine the shock of English Twitter user Alex Carter, 27, back in 2014 when he opened the app to see a commemorative 9/11 image paired with the quote, “Some say this day will never be topped. But if anyone can do it, it’s you.”

Carter tweeted the old screengrab on Tuesday, acquiring more than 52,000 likes and 12,000 retweets as of the time of writing. “Why is the Timehop dinosaur encouraging me to carry out the biggest terror attack ever?” he wrote.

He told the Daily Dot in direct message that the screengrab popped in his memories on Tuesday, and he thought, “why not tweet it?” It had certainly thrown him for a mental loop four years ago.

“I can remember being shocked, I thought Timehop had been hacked then realized it was just an unfortunate algorithmic coincidence,” Carter said.

Indeed, thanks to the app’s algorithm, plenty of Timehop users in 2014 were faced with randomized quotes that did everything but respectfully commemorate the national tragedy. At the time, BuzzFeed News reported on the screengrabs people shared, which included quips like “memba dis?” and “all time best days … this day” beneath the 9/11 image.

Thankfully, in the years since the unfortunate oversight, Timehop has come up with more fitting ways to remember 9/11 on its app. Users on Tuesday shared screengrabs of the app’s dinosaur mascot, Abe, looking solemn.

“Abe is just taking a break from the usual silliness to commemorate 9/11,” Timehop said in a tweet.

The app on Tuesday also presented users with a “moment of silence” screen. Timehop CEO Matt Raoul told the Daily Dot in a direct message that every year since its blunder, the company has “taken care to make sure it’s respectful in all ways.”

Despite Timehop’s best efforts to memorialize 9/11 in a reverent fashion, the irony of a four-year-old screengrab drawing all the attention is not lost on Raoul.

“The old screenshot just goes to show you that the internet doesn’t forget,” he said. “Something Timehop users know very well.”

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*First Published: Sep 11, 2018, 5:37 pm