Whose tweet is it anyway? A brief history of the fake Twitter account

A spoof IDS profile duped David Cameron on Monday. But, apart from fooling the PM, why on earth do so many  people run fake Twitter accounts?

When David Cameron was asked for his views on Twitter in 2009, he said, famously: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.” But the Prime Minister was himself made to look like, well, a fool yesterday when he was hoodwinked by an electrician pretending to be his own cabinet minister.

The Independent revealed that a 42-year-old army veteran from Berkshire is the man behind the @IDS_MP account mentioned by Cameron in a tweet about benefits: “We’re rolling out a cap on Benefits today – @IDS_MP and I are  determined to make work pay...”

The prankster, who did not want to be named, said the Iain Duncan Smith feed “was just a bit of a dig,” adding: “David Cameron uses Twitter to try and seem cool but it massively backfired on him.”

In fooling the PM, who is himself the subject of several spoof feeds, “IDS” staged arguably the biggest coup in the short, rich and often surreal tradition of the parody account on Twitter, where anyone can be anyone.

Sometimes the spoof can be more successful than the original. The Queen’s official @BritishMonarchy has only half the following of @Queen_UK. The real Queen’s latest tweet may indicate why: “On 16 Jul: The Princess Royal – will open Havant Public Service Plaza...” The spoof account has inspired a website,  book and merchandise including a babygrow with the slogan “I’m bald like Daddy”.

Pippa Tips, the popular parody of Celebrate, Pippa Middleton’s party planning book, has similarly taken off, spawning the rival “ When One is Expecting: A Posh Person’s Guide to Pregnancy and Parenting”, which is outselling Celebrate on Amazon. But there are risks in ridicule, as the book’s authors found when Middleton’s lawyers wrote to their  publisher to demand they delete the account.

In 2008, Twitter offered blue ticks to celebrities seeking to verify their feeds. But a man who set up a parody account for Wendi Deng the day after her then husband Rupert Murdoch launched his was floored last year when he  received a tick after after News International mistakenly endorsed his tweets as real.

The IDS parodist was also threatened with legal action by Trenton Oldfield, the Australian who disrupted last year’s Boat Race in protest, after he launched an earlier parody account in his name. Why does he do it? “It’s such an easy thing,” he says. “It’s a bit of fun and can have a bit of an impact, although I didn’t expect to be on Sky News today.”

Andy Dawson is the Sunderland-based journalist behind the popular Diana in Heaven account, which he has used for years wryly to comment on the exploits of royals and welcome the newly dead. He says such accounts are now harder to get away with. “It used to be a bit more Wild West. Now there’s more coverage so anything outrageous gets stamped on. It’s a shame, these people should be fair game.”

Video: Iain Duncan Smith on benefit caps

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Network Support Engineer is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent