AT&T apologizes, removes 9/11 tweet that offended many

AT&T says its tweet was meant to pay respects to those affected by the tragedy, but the presence of a smartphone in the image was seen as offensive.

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Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
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Some found AT&T's Sept. 11 tribute offensive. Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

AT&T posted and quickly removed a tweet meant to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks, but ultimately ended up offending many.

The tweet on Wednesday included the simple words, "Never Forget," and an image which many found in poor taste. The image was the typical New York skyline at night, with two beams of light emerging from Ground Zero, an image commonly used in tribute pictures. But AT&T added an image of a smartphone on top of the scene, striking some as a lame attempt at marketing.

The tweet elicited several negative responses, many of which included language unfit for publication, and AT&T subsequently removed it and issued an apology.

AT&T is just one of many large businesses and brands that caught flack for what some believe is a crass way of using a tragedy to garner attention and awareness. Comedian Joe Mande used his twitter account (@JoeMande) to point out companies, entertainment shows, and even sports teams that offer their own tribute -- in poor taste or not. Others listed include the Los Angeles Lakers, White Castle, and the program "Blue Bloods," which airs on CBS (CNET is owned by CBS).

For big businesses, offering up an acknowledgement of a tragedy is a tricky proposition, balancing the line in appearances that range from respectful to crass. T-Mobile offered its own tweet with a simple image of Freedom Tower as it stands today and the hashtag #WeWillNeverForget.

Not everyone found AT&T's tribute offensive. Its Facebook page with the same image has garnered nearly 5,700 likes and there are people who are defending the image.