The number of fake Twitter accounts is increasing
Oscar Wilde said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
If he’s right, then Opposition Leader Peter Dutton should be delighted as he joins the growing list of public figures whose identities are being floated on Twitter.
Twitter has launched its new paid subscription program, Twitter Blue, which means users can now pay $11.49 to get a “blue tick”.
The coveted check mark once meant that Twitter staff had manually verified the identity of the person operating that account. Not anymore.
Cybersecurity chief resigns
Hours after Twitter Blue went live, fake accounts using the names and likenesses of famous people started popping up.
But surely it’s someone’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen, right?
Oh. The company’s chief cybersecurity officer has just resigned.
Mr Dutton joins an illustrious list of famous people who have been impersonated, including Mario, Jesus Christ, Donald Trump and LeBron James.
In only a handful of dodgy tweets to surface, fake Mario flipped the bird, Mr. Trump lashed out at Elon Musk and LeBron James announced a trade request.
In a meaner post, an account posing as pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly promised customers free insulin.
And on Friday, an account claiming to belong to former Prime Minister Scott Morrison received Twitter’s endorsement.
The fake Dutton account tweeted the following to a message from Prime Minister Albanese claiming renewables are the cheapest form of new energy: “FACT CHECK: Wrong. The coal is in the ground and anyone can dig it up”.
Karl Stefanovic was also spoofed: Today Tech expert Trevor Long showed how easy it is to impersonate someone by creating a fake Stefanovic account.
“Blue ticks on Twitter may be impersonators and this will pose a risk to ministers, governments and businesses,” Mr Long said.
“Thank you for hacking me, it was nice,” Stefanovic told Long.
The thing is, it’s not all a bit of fun. Things get messy at Twitter headquarters, and there are real-world implications.
Move fast and break things
Many fake accounts, including the fake Dutton account, have been suspended or restricted, but their appearance indicates a flaw in Twitter’s new feature. Although the accounts remained operational, some users believed them to be real.
Twitter has so far been a go-to source for up-to-date information during emergencies, disasters, elections and crises.
Australians have used it during floods, fires, pandemic and terrorist events. The experts said The new daily that as it stands, it would be quite easy for someone to create a fake account posing as an official source and spread harmful misinformation during a crisis.
RMIT Professor Mark Gregory said DT that Twitter and the publishers of the platform could expose themselves to legal proceedings by publishing false information.
“Some of the things I’ve seen are unacceptable, and that would be unacceptable under Australian law,” Prof Gregory said.
“Even though Twitter is an American company, this material is also posted in Australia…and in my opinion, some of what was posted could be considered defamatory.”
Mr. Musk likes to go fast and smash things (a motto coined by fellow tech Mark Zuckerberg), so who knows how long the current version of the blue tick will last.
“Please note that Twitter will be doing a lot of stupid things in the coming months,” he tweeted recently.
“We will keep what works and change what doesn’t.”
In response to the Blue Tick debacle on Friday, Mr Musk tweeted: “Going forward, accounts engaged in parody must include ‘parody’ in their name, not just in the bio…fool people n is not acceptable.”