Fake Twitter accounts become a regular on campaign trail

Social media has become an increasingly important part of electoral campaigns, so it was probably inevitable that old-fashioned anonymous attacks would find their way onto sites such as Twitter. Now, fake Twitter feeds have become a campaign issue in the race for mayor of San Francisco, the New York Times reports.

California state Sen. Leland Yee, one of the mayoral candidates, was the target of negative tweets from the account @Yee4Mayor criticizing his record in the state legislature and mentioning Yee's 1992 arrest on suspicion of shoplifting.

Needless to say, the @YeeforMayor account was not affiliated with the campaign. But Yee campaign strategist Jim Stearn, fearing possible confusion among voters as a result of the account's official-sounding handle, asked Twitter to remove the account. Twitter, which has a policy against impersonating others on the social networking site, complied with the request.

Of course, Yee's campaign is powerless to stop people from posting less-than-flattering tweets under satirical handles such as @NotLelandYee and @LelandYeeLoves. It's unclear who's running those accounts, but according to the Times story, Stearns says he thinks they may be the work of Yee's opponents' campaigns.

As Forbes magazine points out, fake Twitter accounts are increasingly used to make political points through barbed humor, as @BPGlobalPR did in attacking British Petroleum over last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They are also used to mock politicians for their personal foibles, as Rahm Emanuel discovered when he was running for mayor of Chicago and became the target of tweets from @MayorEmanuel, a feed that made fun of his famous penchant for profanity.

Fake Twitter accounts have also contributed to the downfall of politicians, according to the Times. A group of conservatives went on Twitter under fake names to gather information to use against former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who recently resigned from Congress after admitting to tweeting lewd photos of himself to several women. One of the fake accounts was under the guise of a 16-year-old girl who asked Weiner to her high school prom.

About the Author

Donald White is an assistant managing editor with 1105 Government Information Group.

Reader Comments

Mon, Jun 27, 2011 Walter Washington DC

If you don't know what you are doing, it is best to stay away from social media all together.

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