Is the Mail on Sunday in a different time zone? Or how it got a string of facts wrong

The Mail on Sunday appears to have made a basic and repeated series of factual errors in a piece today about Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone.

In the piece the paper repeatedly claims that Lynne has sent tweets in the middle of the night: “1am tweets”, “one post, made at 1:38am…”, “at 12:29am…” and so on. There’s even a screenshot apparently verifying this pattern of middle of the night tweets.

Except, if you take a look at the Twitter website and look up the tweets in question you see they are all time-stamped with different times. Take the two in the screenshot used by the Mail which give a time:

Mail on Sunday screenshot time-stamp: 5:52am, May 25th
Twitter website time-stamps: 1:52pm, May 25th

Mail on Sunday screenshot time-stamp: 1:19am, May 25th
Twitter website time-stamps: 9:19am, May 25th

As you can see, far from being in the middle of the night, these tweets were actually sent mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The same applies for all the tweets mentioned in the text of the story: they were actually sent 8 hours after the Mail says they were. (I know the time stamps on the Twitter site are correct because they cross-check against other information, such as when the tweets appeared in my timeline, the publication date and time of blog posts which triggered the tweets and so on.)

The most obvi0us explanation appears to be that the Mail set-up has the wrong time zone in some way and therefore wrongly reported the times. Of course, if the Mail had checked the story more carefully it would have discovered this… but as it stands the wrong times give the story a whole false implied tone of questionable tweets sent at questionable hours. In fact, the only questionable activity is the Mail’s ability to tell the time 🙂

UPDATE: Should perhaps have added that there’s a series of other mistakes in the piece and have now confirmed that the Mail didn’t check any of the contents of the story with Lynne Featherstone before publishing.

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  • Unless of course its being supplied to them from the US (replubicans) – now there’s a thought…

  • Laughably inept and so what if Lynne did Tweet in the middle of the night anyway?

  • It’s the Daily Fail (sorry Mail) so what can you expect

  • Does anyone have a Mail account so they can post a link to this article in the comments section?

  • Stuart Mitchell 30th May '10 - 3:42pm

    “Mail on Sunday screenshot time-stamp: 5:52am, May 25th
    Twitter website time-stamps: 1:52pm, May 25th”

    Ummm… I’ve followed your link to Twitter and on my screen it does actually say 5:52 a.m. as per the MoS screenshot. No idea why there is a discrepancy, obviously I’m in the UK and all my PC’s regional settings are British. Does it make a difference if you are logged in to Twitter (which I am not) – does it have its own regional settings??

    Though I agree with you that the MoS piece is very silly indeed. What does it matter if she’s up into the early hours? Feastherstone is 58, I’m sure it’s a long time since she was last told off for staying up too late.

  • It seems that the criticism of LF is that she is “saying, not hiding” – everything quoted seems supportive of coalition policy, not undermining it

    As for the alleged criticism of the Royal Family: She referred to news that the Duchess had been filmed offering access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, for £500,000 as ‘grubby’ and ‘shoddy’.” –
    (a) Fergie is (officially) no longer part of the Royal Family and
    (b) I read the statement as criticising the News of the World, not Fergie

  • The timestamps on the Twitter web site come from Twitter’s server, presumably on the West Coast. If you have a Twitter account then your account settings include your time zone. When you are logged in your time zone preferences are taken into account when Twitter’s server displays time stamps. Otherwise, you’ll get the default which is PST (BST – 8 hours).

    The Mail probably didn’t log in to collect the information. Cock up or conspiracy? Either they didn’t have the wit to work out that the time stamps were misleading, or they decided it made more of a story to leave them as they were.

  • Just checked, if you’re logged out of twitter then the feed does show the tweets 8 hours behind, as soon as you login they have the correct time stamp on them.

    Maybe someone needs to show the Fail how to set up a twitter account.

  • No, please don’t show the Mail how to twitter. The easier they are to ignore, the better.

  • salim fadhley 30th May '10 - 10:50pm

    So can anybody summarize what the daily fail are accusing Lynne of doing / not doing? What is the outrageous outrage of the day?

  • Andrew Suffield 31st May '10 - 11:50am

    So can anybody summarize what the daily fail are accusing Lynne of doing / not doing?

    Working hard, so far as I can tell. That’s pretty much a sin to a Mail reader.

  • What’s wrong with doing tweets at midnight and beyond? I usually catch up with my emails and work on my web site late at night and into the early hours of the morning. I’ve sometimes had immediate replies too.

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