Twitter Apologizes for Fake Tweets to Promote Ads

Fake tweets

Twitter found itself in an embarrassing situation this week, for which it has now apologized.  It posted an image of fake tweets on its blog, to demonstrate a new advertising opportunity.

That might not have been such a big deal, except for one thing:  they used real Twitter user’s profiles to create the fake tweets.  And they didn’t have approval from the three Twitter users whose accounts they used.

SFGate yesterday reported about a post on the official Twitter blog announcing the TV ad targeting program, where marketers can extend the impact of their TV commercials with targeted Twitter ads.  The post showed a screenshot of the Twitter ads dashboard. It pictured tweets raving about particular products seen on TV commercials.

But the Twitter users pictured in the screenshot never made those tweets.

They hadn’t given their approval, and weren’t even aware that Twitter had used their Twitter handles.

At least two out of the three were publicly angry.

According to the SFGate article:

“It’s disturbing and has no place,” says Neil Gottlieb, who was unaware the Twitter blog post featured a tweet with him saying, “What is the song in the new @barristabar commercial? I love it!!” Gottlieb who runs the medical animation company 3FX in Philadelphia said, “To use my image and fake a tweet is wrong and needs to be addressed.”

William Mazeo of Brazil was also unaware his profile pic was placed in the blog post with a phony tweet. The bogus tweet attributed to him read: “I wish I could make fancy lattes like in the @barristabar commercial.” When he saw the blog post for the first time he was surprised and angry.

“The Heck?!? First time I read about ‘barrista bar’. Not a native english speaker. never even used the word ‘fancy’,” he said on Twitter in reply to a direct message. He also said he wanted Twitter to dissociate him from the promotion and admit his tweet was faked. “Who knows what else they could promote using my name? That’s not cool,” he said in a direct message on Twitter meant for attribution.

Twitter subsequently replaced the image, using tweets profiling Twitter employee accounts.  It also posted an apology at the top of the blog post.

But for the Twitter users involved, that’s not good enough.  As of this writing (late Wednesday, July 24), one of the Twitter users involved is still — understandably — hot about it.

This is not the first social network accused of using their users’ likenesses or images for ad products. Facebook was sued for improperly using its users’ profiles to endorse products.

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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. Hey Anita,

    Thanks for this information related to use of fake tweets to promote twitter ads. Thanks for spreading the words.

  2. What’s really sad is that most Twitter users would be ecstatic to have their profile featured prominently. All they had to do was ask!

  3. Yeah, Robert. I find this move to be really odd on Twitter’s side. They could ask almost anyone and they’d say yes for the promotion – instead they do something that’ll obviously anger Twitter the people used.

  4. Oooh it’s a good thing that they made a public apology immediately after it happened. If not, people will surely grill them about it. While what Robert said is true, most people are simply too sensitive about other people using their profiles.

  5. Thank you for letting me know. This is very common practice to use other people profile images to advertise products. It is very embarrassing for the person who profile image has been used. I were in the same position last year and had to delete my entire profile. What about our larger Internet users? They can not just go and delete their entire profiles?

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