Recently, I had an interesting situation. A friend emailed me to tell me that someone was tweeting under a very similar username to mine, and mentioning my friends in the tweet. She had sent my usual “Shabbat Shalom” tweet on a Wednesday and @’ed my friends.
I looked her up.
Turns out, she had used my header image, my username, and every few hours… tweeted my tweets.
I felt violated.
My dog’s face was all over twitter… being used randomly by a stranger. It seemed like she was responding to my friends. How do I make this stop?
So I googled. And I found that this is a technique for creating many, many twitter accounts to sell to people to boost their follower count. Turns out, for five bucks you too can have 5000 twitter followers… but does that really help anything? I will address that in a second blog. For now, here is the rest of my story.
I started to get curious. If there was a thdprc … what else was out there? Turns out, as I marched down the keyboard I found – thdprl, thdprq, thdpre, thdpry, thdprj, and thdprd. I found seven that day. The next morning, I opened my computer and went to take a look. I was curious. Were there any more? Bam – thdprz, thdprw, thdprt, thdpru, thdpri, thdprx, and thdprm. Seven more. Fourteen fake profiles, in total.
Why were they doing this to me? My Twitter account is fairly innocuous. I update it fairly regularly. I say Shabbat Shalom to my friends. I post pictures of my dog. I link to my blog and retweet interesting articles. Sometimes, I even live tweet conferences.
I was shocked. But it fired me up. I was going to find out everything I could. They shared links to my blogs so I saw IP addresses and links to pages that gave me names. I am fairly certain, based on the things that I found, that it is a person based in China.
The next day, I had a thought… Since it appears they mashed me up with another person, how could she find out this was going on? It wasn’t her username or tweets that were used. So I searched for my actual name on twitter, exactly how I wrote it on twitter… I found nine more profiles. This time, instead of my username, they used my profile picture, my real name, and my bio. Again I reported them – talzirp, talzirc, talzirt, talzirh, talzird, talzirf, litastarsp, muttnheadc, and taliasimonrant.
Again, they took someone’s username and changed it by one letter. I sent out a flurry of tweets. “You are being spoofed!” “Look here and report it to Twitter!” Some people actually thought my tweets were spam. The person who I was mashed with was very receptive and she started reporting them too.
While all of this was going on, I started getting emails from Twitter.
“Hello, This is an auto-response to let you know we have received your impersonation report and will respond shortly. Your patience is greatly appreciated. Please note Twitter allows parody, commentary, and fan accounts; if an account is in full compliance with our policies, it is not considered impersonation. For more information, see this help page: http://support.twitter.com/
Reported it May 28.
Got the “thanks for reporting it” May 29.
Got the next email on May 30.
Hello, Thank you for bringing this to our attention. In order to process user impersonation reports, we need to confirm your identity. Please click on the link and upload a copy of your valid government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport). We need to be able to see your full name and photo on your ID, so please try to send a legible copy. This information will be kept confidential, and will be deleted once we have used it to confirm your identity. Once we have received your documentation, we will review and process your report. We will not process your report until we receive a valid photo ID. We appreciate your cooperation.
Uh. Ok. So I scanned my driver’s license… and uploaded it to their secure website.
Whistle. Whistle. Sure no problem… I’m not worried THAT SOMEONE IS STEALING MY LIFE ON TWITTER. Whistle. Whistle.
EMAIL! They suspended the first round of profiles on June 3 and the second round on June 4. Mind you, I filled out their impersonation form (for your reference, it is here) for the first round TWENTY-THREE TIMES. Each time, I linked to the offending profile, each tweet they stole, and gave them a link to the images that is connected to my name. It was a process that took maybe 10 minutes or so each? I did it every single time. For every single tweet. I made a handmade spreadsheet to keep track of them all – who was reported, which one had the documents uploaded, and which ones were removed. I am still waiting for eight to be removed.
Honestly, one of the scariest things is that there are major brands out there who have NO IDEA that someone took their image and are using it. And the other thing that makes me a little freaked out is that I have found several profiles that have mashed up three people… there is a person out there, that doesn’t know that someone is using their profile image. Maybe there are more spam profiles out there using my image? It makes me think about the intelligence of putting my child’s image online.
I think that if Twitter banned IP addresses, that might slow them down. But spammers will always spam. And that sucks.
December 13, 2017
November 16, 2017
July 12, 2017