Twitter is one powerful social media platform and in recent months we have witnessed several Zimbabwean parody Twitter accounts mushrooming with some depicting political figures while others reputable companies spreading fake news.
A parody account is a fan or commentary account on Twitter where individuals can share different ideas about a specific issue, person or company.
Zim created parody Twitter accounts are grossly disseminating fake news and reports in the process damaging reputable companies brands and reputation. Not only are these people creating parody twitter accounts targeting corporate brands but also influential political and business figures, this in a way destroying personal brands and the brands they represent.
RELATED READING: YOU ARE YOUR OWN BRAND
In addition, not only are those parody twitter accounts grossly spreading fake information but also ignorantly violating Twitter policies. When creating a parody account the important thing is that you provide content that is interesting but does not violate the terms and conditions of the website.
There are rules to follow since you will be talking about real events, people or companies. The approach requires you to only refer to a particular subject and not to impersonate. Here are five rules to keep you relevant (and safe) when making parody accounts.
1. Make people know it’s a parody account.
The first thing you have to do is let others on Twitter know that the account is only a parody or a fan account. Never mislead others into thinking that it is the official Twitter page of the person or group. The username must include descriptions that will instantly let others know that it’s only a fan account.
Place the description on the bio and do not use the actual name of the person or group on its own to prevent confusion. Role-playing accounts are tolerated by Twitter as long as these comply with the terms and conditions of the website.
2. Find an interesting topic.
Parody accounts can talk about a specific event or pertain to a broader topic. For example, you can discuss the recent presidential speech or how a shark was found in a local river. The account can take on a role-playing approach wherein the user will take on the role of the president of the United States or the shark to make things very interesting.
3. Use humor.
Parody accounts generally include humor or sarcasm to keep people interested. Share jokes and other funny ideas arising from the main subject. It will also invite other equally funny people to share their own ideas and sentiments on the issue in an interesting manner that will bring in more people to join.
4. Share interesting media.
Provide memes, pictures and videos to keep things funny and interesting. Parody accounts almost always include memes to help people understand the topic better and give them a clearer picture of what the parody is trying to imply. Invite people to share their own pictures and memes. You can also retweet and share related photos and media content from other sites and users.
5. Stick to the rules.
Always follow the rules and regulations on Twitter. Twitter actually lets you share inflammatory remarks and other funny opinions about certain people or groups, as long as these do not violate their terms.
However, you should be careful when the parody account is reported on Twitter. The website will review the content and posts and decide whether to put the account down. Some individuals have been suspended because of complaints and reports by official users.
Due to digital transformation many of us now largely rely on the internet for news and hot topics but has of late been heavily infiltrated with false information and it’s not new, however it has become a hot topic since 2017.
Traditionally we got our news from trusted sources, journalists and media outlets that are required to follow strict codes of practice. However, the internet has enabled a whole new way to publish, share and consume information and news with very little regulation or editorial standards.
Many people now get news from social media sites and networks and often it can be difficult to tell whether stories are credible or not. Information overload and a general lack of understanding about how the internet works by people has also contributed to an increase in fake news or hoax stories. Social media sites can play a big part in increasing the reach of these type of stories. The economics of social media favour gossip, novelty, speed and “shareability”’ – Simeon Yates.
What can we do about fake information?
Google and Facebook have announced new measures to tackle fake news with the introduction of reporting and flagging tools. Media organisations like the BBC and Channel 4 have also established fact checking sites while these are welcome developments, digital media literacy and developing skills to critically evaluate information are essential skills for anyone navigating the internet and especially for young people.
The vast amount of information available online and rise in fake news highlights the need for critical thinking. Children need to develop critical thinking from an early age. This is a key skill for young people to develop as they enter into third level education and prepare themselves for the workplace.
How to spot False Information?
There are a number of things to watch out for when evaluating content online.
- Take a closer look
Check the source of the story, do you recognize the website? Is it a credible/reliable source? If you are unfamiliar with the site, look in the about section or find out more information about the author.
- Look beyond the headline
Check the entire article, many fake news stories use sensationalist or shocking headlines to grab attention. Often the headlines of fake new stories are in all caps and use exclamation points.
- Check other sources
Are other reputable news/media outlets reporting on the story? Are there any sources in the story? If so, check they are reliable or if they even exist!
- Check the facts
Stories with false information often contain incorrect dates or altered timelines. It is also a good idea to check when the article was published, is it current or an old news story?
- Check your biases
Are your own views or beliefs affecting your judgement of a news feature or report?
- Is it a joke?
Satirical sites are popular online and sometimes it is not always clear whether a story is just a joke or parody… Check the website, is it known for satire or creating funny stories?
Twitter impersonation policy
Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy.
What is not an impersonation policy violation?
Accounts with similar usernames or that are similar in appearance (e.g., the same profile image) are not automatically in violation of the impersonation policy. In order to violate our impersonation policy, the account must portray another entity in a misleading or deceptive manner.
An account will not be removed if:
- The user shares your name but has no other commonalities, or
- The profile clearly states it is not affiliated with or connected to any similarly-named individuals or brands.
Twitter users are allowed to create parody, newsfeed, commentary, or fan accounts. Please refer to Twitter’s parody, newsfeed, commentary, and fan account policy for more information about these types of accounts.
When does Twitter review accounts under this policy?
They review impersonation claims upon receipt of a valid impersonation report. They do not actively monitor users’ content.
How do you file an impersonation report?
If you are the impersonated party or an authorized representative, you can file an impersonation report. If you believe an account is impersonating somebody else, you can flag it as a bystander by reporting directly from the account’s profile.
Please note, submitting a report with incomplete information will delay the processing of your report.
Can they request a specific username?
They generally do not accept individual requests for inactive or suspended usernames.
What if your trademark is being misused?
Companies and businesses should report accounts misusing their trademarks by filing a complaint under their trademark policy. Please review the trademark policy page for more information.
What happens if you violate this policy?
If they determine that you violated their impersonation policy, they may suspend your account. In some instances, an account may be permanently suspended upon first review. If you believe that your account was suspended in error, you can submit an appeal.