Why communicators need to be worried about fake Twitter accounts–ExxonMobil fake

August 11, 2009

I’ll be sharing with Crisisblogger readers (as well as readers of my new Emergency Management blog) results of the survey I am doing on Twitter in Government Communicators. But one thing I have found already is many are very worried about fake Twitter accounts. There is no way currently to stop someone from signing up a Twitter account that sounds just like you or your organization. It is keeping quite a few from taking Twitter seriously and for very good reason.

ExxonMobil is facing a pretty serious fight over a fake Twitter account. This account by blogger Jeremiah Owyang chronicles how a Twit (maybe Twitterer) called Janet has posed as an ExxonMobil employee and grabbed the ExxonMobilCorp twitter account.

Despite being advised by Jeremiah and I’m certain others that she is violating one essential creed of internet ethics and that is not to pretend to be somebody you are not, Janet has decided to ignore this advice and continues to pretend that she is somehow affiliated with the company.

As I mentioned in a previous post, everyone now needs to have in their communication plans and crisis communication plans a strategy for dealing with fake Twitter accounts. The damage they can do in short order is considerable. Twitter has promised to offer a premium Twitter account with verification that you are who you say you are and have authorization to represent an organization. So far this seems to be about their only thought on how to make money with the opportunity they created. But they seem remarkably slow in getting this going. I suspect it is because the use for official communication or emergency management where I am interested is a pimple on their backside compared to how most are using Twitter–telling others what kind of coffee drink they just ordered for example.

On a related note, Jeremiah’s blog has one of the best lists of companies and brands that have been “punk’d” by social media I’ve seen. I’ll keep following this one.

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