Fake accounts

Parody: (1) a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule. (2): a feeble or ridiculous imitation. (Merriam Webster). On the internet, many believe themselves parodists. However, if you take Merriam Webster’s definition as a standard, many among those many are just plain wrong. Posting fake news is not a parody. It is a lie.

This is a fake account. They declare it clearly on their profile. They are also in breach of Twitter’s impersonation policy.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to mistake this account for CNN. They misappropriate the CNN logo and use the same color scheme. This is what the actual CNN Breaking News account looks like:

First rule of thumb: check the profile of your Twitter source before you re-tweet. It only takes a click. If Twitter has verified the profile, it will display a check mark next to the name (they really should add that to every tweet, but they haven’t).  If the check mark isn’t there, the account is a fake, and might be in violation of the terms of service.

If you check so, you won’t be causing unnecessary grief to your friends by re-posting items like @CNN_BREAKING_’s hoax message about Nelson Mandela’s death. The account has since been suspended, but not before circulating “R.I.P Nelson Mandela” accompanied by a picture of Morgan Freeman (gasp!).

Mr. Mandela is in his death bed as of this writing. No one credible has reported otherwise. I won’t even comment on the accompanying picture of Morgan Freeman. SMH.

But, what about real accounts?  they can also spread false and unverified information. Here are two examples:

Gabby Giffords is NOT DEAD.
The AP account was hacked.

You are not defenseless in those situations either. You just should to wait before you tweet. While you wait, you can try to independently verify the information by triangulating. However, even then, waiting might be the best strategy. If reputable news organizations fall for the information, as they did in the NPR case, triangulation is pointless. However, false reports are usually debunked fairly quickly. The Joe Paterno death report is an example. That was debunked within 45 minutes.

Verifying information won’t kill you, and waiting won’t kill you. Please do it before you tweet.

Thank you.