How I Faked Celebrity Tweets in Support for My New Book and Why You Should Care #WTF

I just can’t believe it. On Friday afternoon, my Twitter stream was overflowing with Tweets and Retweets of what could only be best described as an outpouring or gushing of love and support for my new book by some of the world’s most recognized celebrities in the world. Seriously…WTF!?

See for yourself…

I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that these are fake…these Tweets are not real and I didn’t actually publish them….but that’s the point. What if I had? Allow me to explain…

These tweets were generated using a controversial service LemmeTweetThatForYou. Although the site is about a year old, I just learned about LTTFY upon reading a rather serious article today on Poynter that points to the darker side of the service, “…site raises concerns for journalists.

While it’s all fun and games at first, there are incredible implications that can arise for those who do not take proper measures to check facts. And in a real-time world, getting to the truth is often an important task that goes undone. There’s an innate element of trust in social streams…either that or inherent gullibility or laziness. People tend to believe what they see and react accordingly. There are people who are already ReTweeting this post without getting this far to see it’s in fact a farce.

That should be a bit scary for journalists and anyone else concerned about potential hoaxes. Of course, it would be pretty easy to debunk one of these fake tweets if you just visit the person’s actual Twitter profile to see if the tweet really exists.

What’s the big deal you might ask?

Not only can you create fake Tweets from celebrity accounts, you can essentially design a counterfeit Tweet to come from any account you like. @BryanKramer demonstrates this in a comment below.

Everything you see in the screenshot above is customizable. From username to date and time to the number of ReTweets and Favorites, you can put Tweets into anyone’s mouth or fingertips in real-time.

As Jeff Sonderman wisely cautions readers, “But what if it’s passed off as screenshot evidence of an allegedly deleted tweet? Much tougher to disprove. Proceed with caution.”

Indeed. Sometimes in real-time, we need to take a moment to make sure that what we see is right…right now. Verify. Fact check. Take a breath before reacting. At the same time, we need to take a moment to made sure what we also do is right…in real-time. As I’ve always said, with social media comes great responsibility. But what doesn’t change, even in the face of technology, is ethics. You are what you Tweet…even if you fake it.

#ITweetThereforeIAm

#ILieThereforeIAm

UPDATE: Jason Falls (@JasonFalls) makes an important point…a point that I didn’t emphasize in my story. I’ll make the point now and also demonstrate his point of view through Tweets…

UPDATE 2: My friend Paul Sinclair also alerted me to a site where you can fake wikipedia pages.

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  • http://twitter.com/mayhemstudios Calvin Lee

    Brian, you almost got me! lol

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      :) Thanks for reading Calvin!

  • http://www.daviddalka.com/ Dalka

    Oh great, now a screenshot doesn’t even matter… *sigh*

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Exactly… #wtf

  • http://twitter.com/Siwamet San C.Mathee

    Shocked not knowing but Suprised knowing it all now. Thank you Brian , you got me too.

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Cheers San. Thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/teedubya Travis Wright

    Should have saved this for #AprilFools :-P

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      ;)

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      I know…so close!

  • http://twitter.com/JessGroopman Jess Groopman

    You totally got me too!! “He’s my fav Lil Monster!!!!!!!” lol!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      ;)

  • Anonymous

    I began suspecting after the Bieber/Dalai Lama tweets, interesting prank tool. Btw, I already received my perordered #WTF, haven’t had the time to begin it, but I know that as soon as I start reading it I won’t stop till I finish it ;-)

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      LOL. It’s also going to cause (or already has) some interesting problems. Thanks for getting the book. Do let me know what you think!

  • http://www.CommunitiesDNAblog.com Rolando Peralta

    LOL!!! I can’t stop laughing. You’re brilliant.
    I’m starting to read my pre-ordered WTF tomorrow afternoon (I just read a couple of paragraphs and I’m hooked), so I’ll let you know when I post something in spanish in my blog.
    Cheers!!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Thanks Rolando for the great comment and for reading the book. Looking forward to your thoughts!

  • http://www.purematter.com/ Bryan Kramer

    :-)

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      :)

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      As I said in my Tweet to you, let’s go! ;) Tomorrow?

    • http://www.purematter.com/ Bryan Kramer

      Wish I could, am playing single parent this weekend with my wife traveling. :-)

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      OK. Maybe next weekend…I’m still going riding today! Thanks for the idea :)

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  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    I don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, I’m astounded this stuff exists and, on the other, I’m totally having fun with it tweeting awesome stuff about myself from my friends. I guess the good news is you can’t actually tweet it without driving people back to the site where it was created. From a communications perspective, there are huge implications, but what about legalities? I can imagine you’d get in a lot of trouble from people with deep pockets for something like this.

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Hey Gini, great to hear from you!

      Trust me, I was laughing up a storm coming up with the tweets here. But, a little screen grab and a drop in a blog post or news article and from there it’s off to the races. :)

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      I’ll admit I had a little fun with it. I created a bunch and then sent screen grabs to my friends who “wrote” them.

  • Rollergirl09

    A verified check would show next to those celebs’ names if they were legit. So it isn’t a perfect hoax.

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Excellent observation. There also isn’t a character count. I wonder if the verified symbol will make the next round of updates

  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

    Brian,

    This has to be one of your best posts ever! I absolutely agree with everything. As a journalist myself, I spend hours checking and cross-checking sources and info. And even with that, it can sometimes be difficult to get to the truth.

    The service you describe in your article is definitely not something I would use. As Jason Falls mentions, it’s an open invitation to libel and slander.

    I guess it’s better to embed your tweets than posting screenshots, then?

    Brilliant way of tooting your own book, by the way. :-)

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      What a lovely comment. It sure has sparked an interesting and important discussion. Here’s to you!

  • http://twitter.com/charleneli Charlene Li

    Ok, you got me! I got distracted (thanks kids!) and didn’t scroll all the way down to the details. I knew you were connected, but I was trying to figure out who contacted all of these folks and successfully convinced them to tweet for you!

    And yes, I once believed someone who told me that the word “gullible” wasn’t in the dictionary.

    Setting aside the ethics of lemmetweetthatforyou for a moment, your post also raises how easy it is for all of us to simply RT an interesting tweet without following the link through to check the veracity of link. Blame it on laziness or the desire to be the first person to break a story to your followers. Whatever the motivation, this should give us pause to put on our thinking caps.

    • http://twitter.com/SMopenkitchen Linda D’Alessandro

      Truth, about checking and reading always the link before reposting or retweeting it! If I am interested in the link, but don’t have time to read and check it, I just favorite it, to get back to the content in the link later. We have to stay vigilant, always!

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  • http://twitter.com/RalphBastarache Ralph Bastarache

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post (and the convo you had on Twitter with @jasonfalls) and had to check the site out. I am surprised that Twitter would allow access to its API for such a service, perhaps that is where the liability rests? Definitely not a site I will use.

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Thank you for the comment and for following along!

  • http://barrettrossie.com/ Barrett Rossie

    Those fakes were some of the best tweets I’ve seen in a while. Well done sir!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Thanks Barrett, I had fun putting myself in character for each ;)

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  • Wanda J. Barreto

    Hilarious tweets! My faves are those of Ellen Degeneres and Dalai Lama :D Thank you for the wake-up call. We always need to verify that what we see is right and that it comes from a trusted source. Great article!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Thank you Wanda! Verification is more important than ever before!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThePlatinumMarketing Mike Bailey

    So just who can we trust? I’m waiting for Jeff Gordon to pretend he got a Tweet from me saying he drives me round the bend! When is he gonna win again!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      I hope you get that tweet Mike! But your point is spot on. We just need to be a bit more cautious in a real-time world and call out sites and practices like this to create awareness and movements.

  • http://twitter.com/SMopenkitchen Linda D’Alessandro

    OMG…I was not aware of this FakeTweetToot. This is insane. It is like Identity theft! Is Twitter considering any legal actions or forcing the “service” to shut down?

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Can you believe it’s been around for a year and is only now getting attention. I hope that Twitter does apply its pressure. I can’t tell you how many people retweeted the post without reading it…the original headline was a bit different to test how many people actually read before they shared.

    • http://twitter.com/SMopenkitchen Linda D’Alessandro

      I am surprised that Twitter has not reacted yet; I have tried to look for some information on the web but there was non. At this point verification of facts will be the number one priority! Thank you!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      exactly. :)

    • http://twitter.com/smichaelgriffin Michael Griffin

      Even if the service goes away, anyone with a modicum of PhotoShop skill could fake the screenshots. Even easier: just edit anyone’s tweet in Chrome’s “inspect element” window and screenshot the results; NBD.

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      true. people are already doing this with tools as simple as Paint.

    • http://www.socialmedia.biz/ JD Lasica

      This is crazy-ridiculous. Twitter lets this go for a year, and I can’t get Twitter to hand over a handle, after 2 months, when the person who created the account some years ago has never used it. What are these 2,000 employees doing?

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      JD, that’s crazy…and oh so true.

  • Dan Holden

    That was hilarious, what a great read!

    • http://www.briansolis.com/ briansolis

      Thanks for reading Dan!

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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