Greenwald not Greenwild: Another Twitter misinformation blunder

12 Jun

A fake Twitter account and some quick-reacting tweeters spread the false news of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s death Wednesday morning.

Since Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald on Twitter) has been leading the groundbreaking coverage, someone created a @ggreenwild (notice the “i”, and in the bio below, the lack of a second “n” in “Glenn”) account to share a link claiming Snowden was killed, along with 11 others, by a drone at a Hong Kong hotel.

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This is not a real article:

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Usually looked to as a go-to breaking news source, even former Reuters social media manager (and soon-to-be Circa editor-in-chief) Anthony De Rosa retweeted the bad information.

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De Rosa later deleted his tweet and was transparent about it.

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I think this is exactly the way he should have handled it, and is an interesting pivot from the firmer stance he has held in the past, which is that you never delete a tweet unless someone’s life is in danger. (He said as much in a Reddit AMA.) I don’t think anyone’s life was in danger here, but despite De Rosa going against what he said in the past, I still think he handled fixing the mistake the best way.

A quick look at the fake account makes it pretty obvious it wasn’t Greenwald.

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Especially when compared to Greenwald’s real account, which is verified.

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Ironically, the real Glenn Greenwald gave his followers a heads up Tuesday night about a fake Edward Snowden account.

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Here is the bio for that fake account.

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What are some clues – even ones we have heard ad nauseum – that can help us avoid this in the future?

  • See if someone is verified (that’s the checkmark in the turquoise circle). If they aren’t verified, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad account, but the entire reason Twitter verifies accounts is for cases like these, where someone is being impersonated.
  • Check how many followers they have. If it’s a prominent reporter/figure like Glenn Greenwald and they only have triple-digit followers, it’s probably not that prominent person.
  • Check how many tweets they have sent. Again, if it’s someone important, especially a reporter, and they haven’t even tweeted 100 times, let alone thousands, that’s another red flag.

Do you have any social media verification tips?

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