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The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them

The use of parody accounts is a popular practice on social media, especially on Twitter. This happens when an account is created to represent what they are not. A definition by Twitter accurately explains it below:

“…a parody, commentary, or fan account is an account that depicts another person, group, or organisation in their profile to discuss, satirise, or share information about that entity.”

While Twitter has spelt out the rules for parody accounts, many accounts have gone against it to mislead many into consuming fake information. 

What does Twitter say about the use of parody accounts?

Twitter clearly stated in its guideline that a parody account must, in its account name and bio, reflect what it is. On both the account name and bio, the use of words like “fake,” “fan,” and “commentary” must be shown. It reads:

“The bio should clearly state that the account is not affiliated with the subject portrayed in the profile. Non-affiliation can be indicated by incorporating words such as, but not limited to, ‘parody,’ ‘fake,’ ‘fan,’ or ‘commentary’.” 

The screenshot below shows a good example of how a parody should operate. The parody’s account name and bio showed it was a fan account.

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
Screenshot of GRV’s fan and real accounts.

How not to be a parody account

Although the rules are well stated, some accounts have flouted them outright with ill intentions to mislead people or, in dire cases, fleece them of their money.

There have been instances where parodies tried hard to hide what they were to drive conversations towards their agenda or assert themselves as the actual entity.

A parody replied to Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s post

A fascinating example of that happened on Tuesday, March 14, when an account impersonating a professor of history, Saheed Aderinto, made a tweet in response to Nigerian president-elect Bola Tinubu congratulating him on the prestigious Dan David $300,000 history prize he won.

The account claiming to be Professor Aderinto quoted a tweet from Tinubu congratulating the professor on the history prize award. The account’s response was:

“Thanks anyway for the recognition, I hope you restore Our stolen Mandate.”

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
Screenshot of parody account behaving as Professor Aderinto.

DUBAWA did a fact-check on the parody account. Read the full report here.

A fake account impersonating Arise TV

An account (Arise Tv Global) impersonating Nigeria media house, Arise TV, has been doing so since Oct. 2022, when it was opened. The fake account described itself as a media organisation without stating that it satirised the real Arise TV. While a part of the real account’s profile reads: “Global News and Entertainment. Every Culture. Every Angle,” the fake account played on that to add “Global” to its account name and say it is “Broadcasting Original News The Way it comes.”

See the screenshots below:

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
A screenshot of an account impersonating Arise TV.

Fake accounts impersonating banks

This set of accounts is the most dangerous because they are targeted to mislead people into revealing details that could compromise their bank accounts. There is a host of them on Twitter. Like bots, their response to people complaining about bank services is swift. They use the same logo and create similar handles to the banks they are trying to impersonate.

Here, a GTBank fake account engaged a customer, asking them to send a DM, acting as the right organisation to resolve the dispute.

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
Scammer impersonating GTB.

Another instance is below:

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
Account acting like Chipper Cash.

A Chipper Cash account tried the same gimmick. Usually, these fake accounts operate simultaneously, targeting the same customer.

Fake accounts impersonating politicians

During the 2023 Nigeria general elections, DUBAWA found over 30 accounts on Twitter with no disclaimer, all impersonating Senator Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, the Labour Party’s vice-presidential candidate. Some of these accounts were tweeting sensitive, controversial political statements, drawing many user comments and reactions online. 

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
A screenshot of some accounts on Twitter impersonating the LP vice-presidential candidate

In all these case outlines, one visibly noticed factor is the attention and traction of fake accounts or parody accounts with no disclaimers from online users. The reason may be the difficulty distinguishing a fake account from a real one. 

Simple ways to spot parody and fake accounts

To prevent users from falling prey, DUBAWA has outlined tips for users to identify fake accounts on Twitter and social media.

  • Check the account’s bio

Using verified badges to separate parody accounts from real ones used to be a good way before badges became buyable. Now, looking at an account’s bio could tell if it is a parody. It should be in the account’s description.

  • Analyse the followers’ count

Fake accounts always have fewer followers than the account they are imitating. An example is the screenshot of a scammer’s account and the real GTBank Twitter below:

The rise of fake, parody accounts on Twitter and how to spot them
Real account is on the right, while the fake is on the left.
  • Assess the account’s tone and language

A corporate account would be careful about the kind of tweets it puts out and how they are written. A parody account do otherwise because it has nothing to lose. 

Conclusion

Spotting parody accounts is crucial to stopping the spread of fake news. Consider every account a parody until you have done your due diligence. The consciousness would go a long way in how one engages a post from any page, no matter how convincing the account looks or the post’s virality.

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