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Harsh Tweets Wrongly Target Stanford Student

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STANFORD (CBS 5) — A student at Stanford University has received plenty of harsh messages on Twitter lately. He is being blamed for problems a major airline is having, but it’s a case of mistaken identity.

For most of his life, Stanford senior Alan Joyce didn’t have any problems with his own name.

“I doubt my parents were aware that there were other famous Alan’s in the world,” Joyce said.

But this past weekend, Australian airline Qantas was completely shut down by its CEO as part of a tense labor dispute. The airline’s CEO is also named Alan Joyce, and that’s when the problems began for the university student.

The computer science major uses the Twitter handle @alanjoyce. For the past few days, Joyce has been receiving angry comments directed at the CEO.

“People telling me I am a terrible CEO, people telling me that my pay is too high,” Joyce said. “A couple people asking for travel directions or travel assistance.”

It seems the problem for Stanford’s Alan Joyce began when an Australian columnist mistakenly assumed his Twitter handle belonged to the CEO and not the American. The student said it’s one of the risks we all run in the internet age.

“You’re typing in ‘@’ and then some Twitter handle, you don’t always have a good sense for actually who that represents,” Joyce said.

The Stanford student said he does not know enough about the airline’s labor issues to offer the Australian CEO by the same name any kind of advice. But he responded to many of the tweets, trying to handle it all with a sense of humor.

“I have certainly had a lot of people on Twitter telling me, ‘Yeah, you should go in there and be CEO,’” he said.

Amid all the confusion, Joyce the student said he unexpectedly received a formal apology from Qantas as a result.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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