Most of these handles mislead people into believing these are indeed the original handles of media outlets by keeping the colour tone, display picture, cover image, name, and the handle, almost identical to the original.
When tweets from these handles appear on the timeline, more often that not, readers fall for it, thanks to the ‘no discernible difference’ made to the name and logo. Twitter users, who are generally in a hurry, and with the less attention span, end up retweeting these tweets perceiving the information to be true, and spread the misinformation further..
An argument in support of these handles that we often see on Twitter is that most of these accounts have categorically declared in their bios that the tweets they make are fake and ‘jokes’. Like we mentioned before, putting the onus of being careful on the user, when there is a clear intention to ‘fool’ users using the identical names, handles and logos, is quite unfair.
Under the garb of humour and satire, these impersonators propagate fake news and sleazy content and sometimes, content that can do harm to the people they are ‘making fun’ of.
Earlier today, Smita Prakash, the editor of ANI news agency, tagged Twitter India and complained about a fake ANI handle that was spreading misinformation.
Repeatedly saying this @TwitterIndia this handle is tweeting dangerous stuff impersonating the @ANI handle. The twe… https://t.co/XZXWWit1xr
— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) 1536287798000
The tweet that led to Smita’s complaint.
Smita’s plea was heard by Twitter and the fake account was suspended but many such handles that are still operating.
Take for instance, @LimesOfOfIndia, clearly a spoof of
Times of India, has over 17,000 followers from just 103 tweets. The huge follower count explains how people have taken it for the authentic handle.
Sample some of the fake tweets by @LimesOfIndia, that you would not stop to double check, as they can sound too close to the truth.
Rajiv Gandhi was first person who introduced Lunar eclipse in India : Congress https://t.co/Q6c06to71k
— Limes Of India (@LimesOfIndia) 1532718868000
There would be many who might say that the above tweets are funny and satirical, but the intent to mislead can not be ignored.
Another fake handle @TiimesHow, a rip-off of
Times Now, has over 12,000 followers with around 500 tweets.
One of its tweets was taken to be true by a leading Hindi news channel, and its anchor went ahead to air a full-fledged debate on it. Here’s that tweet:
Just In : After the viral video of Priya Prakash Varrier, Whenever we or our fellow Muslim Brothers closed our eyes… https://t.co/nnPCGe0INd
— TIMES HOW (@TiimesHow) 1518585788000
Another tweet from @TiimesHow
Just In : We ordered Alcohol worth Rs 80,000 and drank only of 20,000. The rest 60,000 Rs Alcohol we took back to d… https://t.co/kvW0lRYhdh
— TIMES HOW (@TiimesHow) 1533815265000
Some other active parody handles on Twitter, include that of @NDTV2002 and @CNNews69.
If CCTV cameras are showing us beating the cabinet secretary in CM house then it’s most probable that BJP took cont… https://t.co/hw97QU6fqB
— NDVT (@NDVT2002) 1519125751000
It looks like not much could be done about this legally since Twitter allows parody accounts as long as they include a word like parody or fake in the biography section, and are not using account names and handles that are the same as those of the entity or person being impersonated.
Therefore, we advise our readers to remain vigilant at all times. You too have a responsibility of not spreading misinformation!