Threat of Twitter Parody Accounts

We need to be aware of Twitter parody accounts of politicians and other celebrities during this cycle of presidential elections. Elections often bring out the best and worst in people. The digital space is no different. And often it brings out more bad than good. The candidates and issues are explosive.  As both consumers of digital content and digital managers of brands, we need to be aware of Twitter parody accounts.
Think back to the Gulf of Mexico spill in April 2010, a Twitter account @bpglobalpr became active. It began tweeting out statements about the disaster with the hashtag #BPCares. It looked legit at first glance, but it was a parody account spoofing British Petroleum (BP). In the beginning, @bpglobalpr confused many into thinking it was the voice of BP. However, if you looked closely at the avatar, it was pretty apparent that this was a parody. If that didn’t make you wonder, then the tweets the account was sending out might. This parody account took humorous but very pointed jabs at BP’s handling of the disaster. Many people thought the activity of @bpglobalpr was a failed attempt at social media by BP. The account had and continues to have twice as the followers on Twitter as the official BP account. The @bpglobalpr account was one of the first breakout parody accounts on Twitter, and it spawned other brand and individual parody accounts.

The nature of Twitter makes it ripe for parody accounts.

This is what Twitter’s policy on parody accounts says:

Twitter provides a platform for its users to share and receive a wide range of ideas and content, and we greatly value and respect our users’ right to expression. Our users are solely responsible for the content they publish and are often in the best position to resolve disputes amongst themselves. Because of these principles, we do not actively monitor users’ content, and we do not edit or remove user content except in response to a Terms of Service violation or valid legal process.
Users are allowed to create parody, newsfeed, commentary, and fan accounts on Twitter, provided that the accounts follow the requirements below.

The requirements for parody, newsfeed, commentary, and fan accounts states that:

All requirements must be met in order to comply with our parody policy.

  • Avatar: The avatar should not be the exact trademark or logo of the account subject.
  • Account name: The name should not be the exact name of the account subject without some other distinguishing word, such as “not,” “fake,” or “fan.”

Please note that your account must be fully compliant with the Twitter Rules and Terms of Service in addition to meeting these requirements.

Bottomline for Brands and Consumers

Consumer and brands beware. Twitter leaves it up to individuals and organizations to monitor parody accounts and to report any activity that violates Twitter’s terms of service. This is a good reason for brands to have a solid monitoring program set up. And a good reason for consumers to dig deeper on “famous” Twitter accounts. Typically if an account is verified by Twitter, you can trust it. That said there are some who photoshop the verified symbol into the Twitter header. If it doesn’t look right, then it isn’t.

There was a time on Twitter when parody accounts were new and novel. Now they are extremely common and pop up after most noteworthy events. Consumers and brands need to be mindful always paying attention to the details.

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