The concept of the twitter troll has been around almost as long as twitter itself.
Then came the parody account where someone sets up an account purporting to be a famous person, and tweets silly things that the famous person might be imagined to say @Queen_UK is one such account that I follow that makes me chuckle.
However, in recent weeks things have taken a more sinister turn with people setting up ‘parody’ accounts claiming to represent political parties. They spend some time gathering followers (including prominent politicians in some cases) before turning nasty and spreading malicious mis-information to their followers and the wider world in an attempt to discredit the party concerned.
To my knowledge there have been at least four fake UKIP accounts (@UKIPYeovil, @UKIPNorthLondon @UKIPEastLondon , @UKIPCheltenham) and possibly one Labour account (@LabourLondon) in recent days.
What is most interesting is the reaction of people who were suckered in to the pretence when the account turns ‘toxic’. They were perfectly happy to re-tweet the vile nonsense that was masquerading as truth when it suited their ends, but then take great offence when the account is exposed as a hoax and themselves as gullible fools. One such example that I saw is pictured above.
This twitter user was (and is) quite happy to spread lies about UKIP, but not at all happy about being made to look an ass.
In the murky world of social media we could all learn the lesson of treating accounts of people we don’t actually know as potentially subversive.
My grandfather once told me about driving, “assume everyone else on the road is an idiot”, I think a similarly sceptical approach to the veracity of social media accounts might also be justified.