A lot of the shenanigans about the Brett Kimberlin Saga revolve around Twitter. As my Mind Map of The Tactics of Online Political Warfare shows, there’s online intimidation, sock puppets, fake boycotts, disinformation, threats, defamation, swarming and all sort of tactics that show up on Twitter.
Is there a reason that all this idiocy happens on Twitter? Why, yes! There is!
Twitter makes it very simple to create multiple anonymous accounts.
That’s it in a nutshell. Any Tom, Dick or Randy with an email account can open a Twitter and nobody has any way of telling who created the account or where they are. Want to create 100 accounts? You just need 100 different email addresses and of course with GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo and a grillion other ways to make free email accounts, that’s not tricky.
This leads to Twitter being chock full of accounts that are fake or anonymous, a situation which just isn’t good. As Seth Godin said way back in 2004, before Twitter was born:
Virus writers are always anonymous.
Vicious political lies (with faked photoshop photos of political leaders, or false innuendo about personal lives) are always anonymous as well.
Spam is anonymous.
eBay fraudsters are anonymous too.
It seems as though virtually all of the problems of the Net stem from this one flaw, and its one I’ve riffed on before. If we can eliminate anonymity online, we create a far more civil place.
And so Twitter is a petri dish of spam, fraud and skullduggery; a long digital hallway where bullies and liars run free, and good men die like dogs.
Add to that; there are tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck that make it super simple to manage multiple Twitter accounts at once and manipulate your world of sock puppets. Even the Twitter iPad apps makes it easy to read and post on multiple accounts. It’s also easy to automate tweets, add followers automatically and so on and so forth.
This allows people to do all sorts of other trickery, too. For instance, many people wonder how @BrooksBayne has 100,000+ followers. I don’t know, exactly and he’s not forthcoming about the subject. However, there’s an interesting article that Bayne himself wrote back in February 2009 entitled The Newest Way To Game Twitter – Fake Followers that may hold a partial answer. Brooks explains a method that people were using to get enormous amounts of followers very quickly. Eventually Bayne says :
Some of you are probably wondering, “So what?”. I understand. For many people this wouldn’t matter. However, there’s more than one use case for Twitter. Some people really do use Twitter for business. In this realm, more followers means more bragging rights and the appearance of more credibility. The number of followers matters to some of us.