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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.

68 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “How I Faked Celebrity Tweets in Support for My New Book and Why You Should Care #WTF”

  1. Calvin Lee says:

    Brian, you almost got me! lol

  2. Dalka says:

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

  3. San C.Mathee says:

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

  4. Should have saved this for #AprilFools 😛

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

  6. Anonymous says:

    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 😉

    • briansolis says:

      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!

  7. 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!!

  8. 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.

    • briansolis says:

      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. :)

    • 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.

  9. Rollergirl09 says:

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

  10. 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. :-)

  11. Charlene Li says:

    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.

    • 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!

  12. 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.

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

  14. Wanda J. Barreto says:

    Hilarious tweets! My faves are those of Ellen Degeneres and Dalai Lama 😀 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!

  15. Mike Bailey says:

    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!

    • briansolis says:

      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.

  16. 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?

    • briansolis says:

      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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • briansolis says:

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

    • JD Lasica says:

      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?

    • briansolis says:

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

  17. Dan Holden says:

    That was hilarious, what a great read!

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