CYBERSPACE—What started out as an innocent look at Twitter search results for “AVN” opened a Pandora’s box of Twitter spam, or twam, revealing what can only be described as a typically lazy campaign by an adult company using fake Twitter profiles to spam users, but with a twist. The tweets sent out by the people behind the fake profiles are themselves pilfered from other Twitter users.
The trail was ridiculously easy to follow. The search results included a suspicious number of tweets by people whose monikers began with the name “Shyla.” What also stuck out like a sore thumb was the fact that many of the Shyla tweets were very dated. Several referred to last month’s AEE show or the AVN Awards as if they were currently going on. One of the Shylas was getting ready to go to the show. So why were they being posted up on a Tuesday in February?
A closer examination revealed that all of the Shylas were fake profiles, created by people behind an adult dating site, which is itself run by an adult affiliate program. The trail practically followed itself! All of the website links on all of the profiles linked to the same dating site, and the dating site was easily connected to the affiliate program.
The real problem is that we were also able to identify to whom some of the stolen tweets belonged, as well. And they just keep coming. As we were investigating, a new Shyla tweet was posted up, saying that the person just got out of a meeting with senior editor Dan Miller at AVN. Of course, no such meeting had taken place ... Tuesday. The tweet and almost everything related to it was a lie.
Twitter will be contacted about this, and when shown the proof will hopefully remove all of the fake Shyla profiles, but nothing will stop the offender from creating new fake profiles—perhaps with 'Chyla' next time—and it seems as if the only way to stop such fakery is for people to notice what is happening as it is happening and then contact Twitter. Too little, too late.
The problem is similar to that faced by content owners whose content is illegally uploaded to tube sites, and can only be taken down once it is found and a DMCA notice sent to the tube site, hoping that they comply. In most cases, that remedy is also too little, too late; the damage is done.
With Twitter, the fake profiles are also using other people’s tweets without their permission. AVN has sent a query to an industry attorney asking about potential legal remedies in such situations. Basically, if someone takes my tweet and uses it as their own, with the express intent to drive traffic back to their website, can I sue for damages, and does Twitter have any responsibilities in that particular food train of theft?
When we get an answer, we’ll let you know. We’ve also decided to withhold the offending company names until we find out exactly what our options are in this admittedly odd situation that seems to have built upon the already prevalent problem of Twitter spam, or twam.