Let me apologize in advance for writing about Twitter. I find most articles about the service to be gratuitous and “slow news day” fodder. If Twitter’s not your thing – please skip this article as it won’t have any relevance or interest to you.
There is a big issue I noticed yesterday. Several weeks ago there was a lot of buzz on the Internet which originated when several sites noticed that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had suddenly opened a Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/ohhdl. Naturally my first reaction was skepticism, then to follow His Holiness for the opportunity of Twittering “Hello Dalai”.
Turns out the whole OHHDL Twitter account was a fake. According to multiple news accounts, Twitter closed (or more likely suspended) the account due to rules against impersonating other people.
So far this sounds reasonable to me.
What apparently happened next is they allowed the owner of OHHDL to re-open the Twitter account under the new name OHHDLINFO.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Since I did not re-follow OHHDLINFO, and suddenly their “tweets” appeared in my normal twitter stream – Twitter may have allowed the account to migrate 20,000+ users from the forged Dalai Lama account to the new “INFO” account.
This theory appears bolstered by the TwiterCounter service (image below) which shows the OHHDLInfo with only a marginal drop in followers on the date the account was exposed as unofficial.
That leaves one of two explanations:
1. Twitter allowed the fake account to be re-activated and 20,000 users transferred.
2. The OHHDLInfo account was pretty successful in signing up over 20,000 users apparently overnight.
Isn’t this tantamount to transferring subscriber information obtained under fraud?
See a problem?
Over 20,000 users are now signed up to follow an account that they originally didn’t intend to follow (they were following someone they believed was the real Dalai Lama) and can be direct messaged (which generally also sends an email) from this account – which signed them up under fraudulent means!
It’s possible that Twitter had nothing to do with this and that the account in question was able to take advantage of a loophole to transfer these names on their own.
However, remember that for this to happen Twitter would have to first RE-ENABLE the fake Dalai Lama account. This seems to imply there was some manner of coordination between the fakers and Twitter.
So, what apparently was allowed to happen was a fake (aka fraudulent) account that had accumulated over 20,000 followers against the terms of service of Twitter was allowed to migrate all those users to a new account.
This potentially opens a whole new way for spammers to gather followers on Twitter and then proceed to bombard them with fake direct messages.
In my mind, new Twitter accounts should only be allowed to migrate followers if they’re created for a genuine purpose and not because the old one was shut down due to fraud. The potential for abuse is glaringly obvious and Twitter needs to change their rules on this immediately.
The current OHHDLINFO account on Twitter has several other apparent terms of service problems – not the least of them is the use of a likely copyright image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and failing to clearly make note that the site is not an official Dalai Lama stream.