Impersonation and Twitter

Thoughts By 8 years ago

On Friday a twitter account claiming to be an official Today Tonight user was removed at the request of the misrepresented party.  The satirical look at the current affairs Today Tonight by creating a fake Twitter account was only up for a few days, posting pretend news updates from the show which included tweets such as; 

“Swine Ebola: the sleeping killer. Experts at the National Beef Association tell us how to avoid the deadly virus, tonight.”

“That was Jacques Chevalier, who lost his family in the crash of Flight 447. Up next, it’s Muffin, the video-game playing hamster.”

“Tonight, from taxi to triage: Indian students are filling up our hospitals. Are there enough beds for Aussie patients?” 

Although the tweets were comical, it was also a misrepresentation of the brand and the presenter Matthew White. This offers a fair grounds for the shows management to request the account to be removed. It is alleged that this occurred.  

Impersonation of current affairs show Today Tonight removed from Twitter.

Impersonation of current affairs show Today Tonight removed from Twitter.


On the otherhand, if it clearly stated that the account was a fake, could the show have sufficient grounds to have it removed? Is it still defamatory against the brand of individuals? Although twitter would likely follow up any requests from the public, it would be interesting to see what their policy is in closing accounts. This issue has yet to be tested in court.

The owner of the account, Mr. Nassar is also responsible for the fake Stephen Conroy twitter account, the Minister for broadband. With over 3000 followers, 1,688 updates and a bio description “You’ve been a naughty geek, haven’t you? Very naughty indeed”, the account is clearly identified as fake and is still actively tweeting.

Twitter actually has an impersonation policy which describes non-parody impersonation as a beach of the company terms of service. The line between impersonation and defamation is yet to be tested.