Twitter’s @MagicRecs account is a great way of finding new people to follow – so good, in fact, that its recommendation technology has been built into the company’s official mobile apps. However, twice in the past few days it’s notified me about fake accounts.
On Saturday, it was an account (since suspended by Twitter) purporting to be run by controversial Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, and today it was one supposedly belonging to Private Eye editor Ian Hislop (debunked by the magazine’s own Twitter account). In both cases, @MagicRecs’ DMs provided ‘social proof” for the supposed veracity of these accounts in the form of people who I respect having recently followed them.
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In the past, these people may have followed a Paul Dacre account for a while to suss out whether it was real or not before spreading the news to their Twitter followers. Now that Twitter’s algorithms are picking up a spike in followers and spreading the news automatically, it’s easy to see how fake accounts can spread more quickly.
All an account spoofer needs is a few well-connected users to speculatively follow and they’ll have gained the endorsement they need to grow via Twitter’s own algorithms. After all, Twitter doesn’t take the reason you follow someone into account.
How does Twitter counter this? Real-time account verification? That would be nice but it hasn’t even got manual verification perfected yet. For the time being, @MagicRecs is a useful tool but one you should use with some good old-fashioned critical thinking.
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