A few weeks back, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) expressed concern about fake Julius Malema accounts on Twitter tweeting misleading messages. The ANCYL’s militant tone of voice in conveying this concern however made for some nice headline-grabbing soundbites. Soundbites that lead to a barrage of responses from journalists, commentators and the Twitter community alike.
But, taking a step back for a second and cutting through the ANCYL’s talent for their creative choice of words, their concern is valid. And one that many a person or organisation has flagged before. This the very same reason why Twitter introduced Account Verification in 2009: a lawsuit was filed against Twitter by the manager of a well-know baseball team in the US back then (details of the case can be found here).
In fact there are a number of cases where Twitter was asked (read: threatened) to shut down fake Twitter accounts:
- Kanye West posted a rant on his blog saying: “Hey Twitter, take the so called Kanye West Twitter down now.”
- Ewan McGregor was considering legal action to remove a fake Twitter account that had attracted 20,000 followers
- Actor/musician Vincent Gallo ordered Twitter to find and shut down fake accounts
- BP asked Twitter to enforce a disclaimer on fake BP Twitter account @BPGlobalPR
The list goes on.
However, as the ANCYL has learned (or not), there are correct ways of dealing with impersonators and then there are the No-No’s that can potentially even exacerbate the problem.
Here are 5 Twitter No-No’s when faced with a fake Twitter account:
TIP #1: Be confrontational, aggressive, threatening in trying to resolve the problem
TIP #2: Stand on a soapbox and rant to the whole world
TIP #3: Failure to acknowledge your ignorance of the nature of the technology and community
TIP #4: Stereotype and paint all Twitter users with the same brush
TIP #5: Failure to setup your own Twitter profile (even if it is only a placeholder profile)
To the last point, by saying that you should create your own official profile, I’m not saying you should now start using Twitter. Take Tiger Woods for example: he (or more likely, his communications team) setup a Tiger Woods Twitter profile back in mid-2009 which, barring 3 tweets promoting his website, stayed dormant for a year and a half. And until recently served its purpose as a placeholder for Tiger on Twitter. Nothing more, nothing less.
Bottomline, if fake accounts are your concern it would be worth your while to at the very least have your own profile to inform the general public of, as well as point Twitter to when flagging your concerns with the company. It just makes for good practical sense.