Monday, September 21, 2009

Twitter cracks down on fake accounts amid legal threats

Twitter co-founder and CEO Evan Williams
Twitter has been forced to crack down on fake accounts after a number of celebrities including Cheryl Cole and David Miliband were targeted. In the past, the instant blogging site has seemed to tolerate fake accounts, even though some have attracted large numbers of followers and featured dubious claims about celebrities' lives.

But now Tony La Russa, the coach of a US baseball team, has launched legal action over a fake accThe actor Ewan McGregor is also said to be considering legal action after nearly 20,000 followers of a bogus account set up in his name read updates about his personal life.
Other false accounts on Twitter include one in the name of Britney Spears, another for the Dalai Lama and one for the Queen.

Earlier this summer, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband was forced to deny comments attributed to him about the death of Michael Jackson. ount which he said featured "hurtful" comments about the deaths of two of his players.

Another Tweeter pretended to be jailed record producer Phil Spector, writing from his prison cell and another had former Mirror editor and Britain's Got Talent judge congratulating followers for voting for Susan Boyle.

A fake Twitter set up account for George W. Bush attracted 1,100 followers. Recently, the hoaxer had the former US President saying of the Queen’s birthday: "Queenie Lizzie’s birthday party today. She’s lookin’ good for 110 years old, or however old she is."

The fake profiles has even led to one enterprising individual setting up a website aimed a verifying Twitter accounts. Valebrity founder Steven Livingstone believes many of the fake accounts are set up to carry out direct marketing.
"People are making a lot of money out of it. Nobody knows who’s who on these sites," he said.

Twitter struggles to prevent fake accounts being set up because it does not request proof of identity and until now, has tolerated them provided they do not claim to be genuine.

But following complaints, the website, which has six million users, is now testing a new system that guarantees genuine accounts with a tick next to the name.

"We’re working to establish authenticity, starting with well-known accounts that have had problems with impersonation or identity confusion," a Twitter spokesman said.

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