deborah petersen.social media editor.writer.guide

Unraveling Social Media One Tool at a Time

This Twitter hoax was easy to spot


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Here we go again. I just finished holding a session on “Separating Fact from Fiction Online” and then, I read this Twitter hoax story. Today, share prices fell for a company after a  fake Twitter account  falsely reported that the company was being investigated by the Department of Justice for fraud. The only fraud, apparently, was the Twitter account that reported it. Reuters reported that the false report came from another Twitter account.

Shame on whomever is behind the fake Twitter account, but double shame on anyone who retweeted this tweet without making one simple check. The real account @muddywatersre has 7,597 followers, 225 tweets, and is included on 207 lists. It includes the company website on its profile. The fake one?  It has eight tweets, 12 followers and it is on zero lists.  There is no link to a website.  The real firm is going to have higher numbers in all these categories, and a website listed.  This does not assure that the Twitter account is legitimate, but in this case, there were enough signs on the fake account to raise red flags that warranted further investigation. Also, the fake account lists the name Conrad Block, but the name of the founder of Muddy Waters Research is Carson Block. Finally, the fraudulent Twitter account’s eight tweets were all about a single company and a single (supposed) investigation, and all the tweets were made today. Such a young account should never be trusted for such important and potentially libelous news.

Both accounts have the same photo logo, which points to how sophisticated this trickery can become.

The real firm, Muddy Waters Research, Tweeted today that there is no report, and that it was a hoax. There are other reasons that such a tweet would be suspicious, but in this case, the first sign of trouble was easy to find.

Here are some quick reminders about retweeting:

  • When in doubt do NOT retweet!
  • Check out the source of the tweet before retweeting- Does the account have a photo, followers, is it on lists, is there a website listed, who is following.
  • Confirm the information with additional sources
  • Is there a link included in the tweet which confirms the information?
  • Trust your instincts.
  • If it is too good to be true it probably is.
  • When was the account started?
  • Here are more tips from me, Craig Silverman and Mandy Jenkins.
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This entry was posted on January 29, 2013 by in Twitter, Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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