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In Connecticut, Republicans Attack Dems via Fake Twitter Accounts

A novel online tactic employed by Connecticut Republicans to attack their Democratic opponents has been shut down by Twitter. The New Haven Advocate reports that last week, Twitter terminated 33 fake accounts created by Republicans using the names of Democratic state representatives. The short-lived scheme was to send out posts on Twitter under the Democrats' own names criticizing them.

State Republican Chairman Chris Healy's said he was "not quite sure what the issue is, other than that the Democrats were successful in stopping free speech."

A key issue in Twitter's decision was whether the fake posts violated its "anti-impersonation policy." Twitter stated in an e-mail reply to a Democratic leader's complaint that

A person may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse or deceive others. ... Impersonation is against our terms unless it is a parody. The standard for defining parody is, "Would a reasonable person be aware that it's a joke?"

Twitter concluded that it was not reasonably clear that the posts were a joke and removed the accounts, but Healy calls the decision "silly." "That's not impersonation; that's satire," he added.

Notably, another flank of the Republicans' online attack lives on, as they are still operating 33 corresponding Web sites they created using the names of those same Democratic lawmakers. Healy says that despite the Democrats protests, the sites will remain up and running. "They didn't think of it first, so that's why they're whining," he said.

One of the 33 sites still up is MeetChrisDonovan.com which invites readers to "Get to Know Speaker of the House Chris Donovan." The site contains a prominent link to the now-pulled Twitter account (which now simply bears a message stating that "the account you were headed to has been suspended due to strange activity. Mosey along now, nothing to see here.") According to the Advocate, all of the information on the Web site was produced by Republicans and is critical of Donovan, with only the slightest indication in small print at the bottom of the page about the source. In response to comments from professors in the article that the sites are deceptive or perhaps unethical, Healy simply says that "I really don't care what a bunch of college professors from liberal colleges think."

Posted by Bruce Carton on October 26, 2009 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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