[UPDATED 10 March 2015 — After publishing this, I started hearing from other foreigners doing media in China (PR, journos), all of whom had been cloned in precisely the same way – legit twitter handle of another China entity, followed by random numbers and digits (see here, for example). Who’s doing it? What’s it amount to? I have no idea. I’ve reached out to twitter’s media folks, and perhaps they’ll be able to clear it up. In the meantime, one of the other China expats – a journalist – put me in touch with twitter’s spam team, and they helped to clear out the Adam Minter clones. I guess we’ll see if that takes care of the problem.]
[UPDATED 10 April 2015 — Twitter’s media people got back to me with this: “We don’t comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons, and we only share IP addresses with law enforcement in response to valid legal process.” That’s too bad – since writing them, the impersonation accounts started up again, cloning me and several other China-based journos and academics. Oh well.]
A few months ago a friend emailed to say that he’d searched for me on twitter and found twenty accounts using my name, photo, and bio. I looked, and he was right: I was being impersonated. But here’s the thing: the actual twitter handle – the thing that starts with an @ – wasn’t some permutation of @adamminter. Rather, it was always @XHnews plus some random string of letters. As many of my readers know, @XHnews is the official, verified account of Xinhua, China’s state-owned news agency, purveyor of news and propaganda to the world.
Why would someone want to make a mash-up of me and Xinhua? I have no idea. But anyway, Twitter doesn’t make it easy to get rid of these accounts – you have to fill out a form for each one. Still, once I finished complaining about the first, I couldn’t stop, and after 20 minutes or so I’d dutifully complained about each Minter/Xinhua mashup, and a few days later they were gone. Or so I thought.
Because a few weeks later they were back. Only this time, it wasn’t two dozen mashups – there were more than fifty. This time I filed a single impersonation report with twitter and added a note explaining this curious situation, and begging that twitter delete every Adam Minter that starts with a @XHnews. And they did … Continue reading