This weekend is not a good time to be Jan Moir. The full power of Twitter revealed itself for possibly the first time in the UK on Friday as incensed users across the country and beyond tweeted their disgust at what she had written in her Daily Mail comment piece.
What actually transpired was that right-wing antagonista Moir had, in her own inimitable way, insinuated that ex-Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, who famously came out at the height of the band's fame, died because he was gay. And this despite a coroner's inquest which found no unusual circumstances surrounding his death.
"The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again," wrote Moir.
"Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one."
Before too long there were hundreds of angry comments beneath the article, and on Twitter, celebs such as Stephen Fry and Derren Brown expressed their disgust at her "loathsome and inhumane" article.
But then something really interesting happened. Sensing correctly that all this fuss was actually playing exactly into the hands of the Daily Mail, by driving more traffic to its pages, blogger Malcom Coles encouraged others who felt the same way in the community to petition those who advertise on the Mail's site, including Visit England, BT and Marks and Spencer.
The more remarkable thing is that mere hours later, by early Friday afternoon, all ads had been pulled from the page - as advertisers rightly calculated that it would make terrible business sense to be associated with Moir's homophobic rant.
While it remains to be seen therefore whether Twitter can become a genuinely powerful platform for businesses to engage with their customers, what happened with Moirgate clearly shows it cannot be ignored by firms. Those who keep a careful watch on what is being said about them and the sites on which they advertise will be first to react and the first to benefit.
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