by Mark Ollig
Most folks are understandably curious about what the great-and-powerful Google Oracle knows about them.
I’m not (remarkably) vain, but I do admit to googling my name every so often.
When I do, the usual social media footprints indexing my online life appear; nothing too embarrassing, mind you.
A couple of weeks ago, for no specific reason, yours truly typed his name inside the Google search box.
The typical results appeared: links to my newspaper columns, to my blog, LinkedIn mentions, images, articles, and comments from my social media sites.
There were Facebook references, messages from my Twitter account, and other gleaned data about me.
While looking through some 1,860 Google search results, I noticed something very odd about the ones containing my Twitter username.
“What the heck is this?” I said out loud.
I saw a number of search results with links and attached messages saying: “Mark Ollig (@bitsandbesty) Twitter. The latest tweets from Mark Ollig (@bitsandbesty) – Freelance technology journalist. Telecommunications engineer. I blog and provide social media content to print and digital news outlets. All views are my own.”
The information was correct – except for one glaring error: the Twitter username for Mark Ollig was wrong.
You see, my Twitter username is: @bitsandbytes not: @bitsandbesty.
“Oh, I am so going to find out what this is all about,” I tersely said to myself as I quickly logged into my Twitter account.
I immediately went to the Twitter profile page for: @bitsandbesty.
My eyes widened in disbelief: @bitsandbesty was the Twitter user name of a “Mark Ollig.”
Their personal Twitter profile photo was of me when I had climbed up a telephone pole; the same one I use on my Twitter account.
The Twitter background image I posted of the historic Burden Water Wheel, and my personal profile description; all had been copied from my @bitsandbytes Twitter page.
The realization slowly sank in: I was the victim of Twitter Impersonation.
Someone created a new Twitter account using my name, Twitter photos, and profile user information.
This charlatan was unable to steal my @bitsandbytes Twitter username, as it is unique; so they came up with a very close name, one which could be easily mistaken for mine.
The impersonator Twitter account was sending out tweets from what would appear to anyone viewing them as being from my @bitsandbytes Twitter account.
Their tweets had my Twitter profile photo attached to them.
The only way for someone reading these messages to know they were not mine, would be to look closely at the username; but this is easily overlooked, as the impersonator’s Twitter username blended so closely with my authentic username.
The only thing I could do was to embark on a glorious quest to reclaim my uniqueness in Twitterville.
Using what I considered reasonable logic, yours truly visited the Twitter Help Center, at: https://support.twitter.com.
I typed: “Impersonation Policy” in the search box.
Here is the link for Twitter’s Impersonation Policy: https://support.twitter.com/articles/18366#.
While reading through their policy, I noticed: “Twitter users are allowed to create parody, commentary, or fan accounts.”
What? Could someone think I was popular enough to warrant a fan-made parody account?
While considering this intriguing possibility, the sobering answer yours truly came up with was: “Um, no.”
Twitter states: “Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter Impersonation Policy.”
“Ah-ha,” I thought. This account is definitely trying to portray yours truly “in a confusing or deceptive manner.”
I emailed Twitter Support, and explained to them why I felt my Twitter account was being impersonated.
Twitter replied; they needed to first confirm my identity with a valid government photo ID.
They provided a special Internet link for me to upload my ID proving I was who I said I was; even though I already knew who I was. Of course, they have no idea who I am. This makes sense, right?
Using my smartphone, I took a picture of my driver’s license, and uploaded it to Twitter.
A few days later, I received another email from Twitter saying; “We’ve removed the reported account for a violation of Twitter Rules, and specifically our rules regarding impersonation on Twitter.”
Victory! I did a fist-pump into the air.
With confirmation the impersonator’s account had been suspended, I logged back onto Twitter.
Carefully, I typed @bitsandbesty inside the Twitter search box, pressed “enter” and then clicked the highlighted @bitsandbesty link.
On my screen, in large, bold-print type, it read: “Account suspended.”
Yours truly had fought the good fight against the Twitter impersonator – and won.
Here is a screen-capture of the Google results showing my impersonated Twitter account link references: http://tinyurl.com/bytes5.
I saved the correspondence Twitter sent to me. You can see it here: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-TM.
The Twitter online justice system does work; if you take action.
What should you do after discovering an account on Twitter is pretending to be yours?Start by reporting it at: https://support.twitter.com/forms/impersonation.
Visit my official Twitter account page at: https://twitter.com/bitsandbytes.