Twitter is spoofing users’ accounts in the Discover feed and I’m not sure why. Basically, they are promoting tweets in our Discover feeds by spoofing the reason for the tweet showing up in your personal feed. Twitter looks through your list of whom you are following and then adds “PersonYouAreFollowing follows AccountOfTweet” to the top of the tweet to validate the reason for putting this tweet in your Discover feed. This would be a relatively good thing to do if the tweets in my feed were from accounts that the people I’m following actually follow. The problem is, they aren’t. It’s being spoofed by Twitter themselves. I noticed the spam/spoof when I saw a tweet by a blog on Buenos Aires that supposedly the Pope himself follows in my Discover feed.
I don’t know much about the papacy, but I kind of doubted that the Pope has a significant amount of time to read up on the tales of the ex-gardener of Nestor Kirchner. Sure enough, if you go look at the Pope’s profile, you’ll see that he only follows his own accounts for the different languages.
I then started looking for other inconsistencies and I found several. For example Louis CK, according to my Discover feed, follows both @huffingtonpost (unlikely, but whatever) and @AVTVClub. Taking a look at who Louis CK follows (1 account), this is obviously not true.
Another example of an account being manipulated is one of my personal heroes, Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut and most recent commander of the ISS. You can see from the images below and his following feed that his account is being spoofed as well by Twitter.
Same with The Onion:
It doesn’t happen with only sponsored accounts as shown here:
Now maybe none of these people mind, but maybe they do. Perhaps the Pope doesn’t want his followers to wrongly believe that he is following some random blog talking about a former Argentine president’s gardener. I doubt Louis CK wants people to think he is following the Huffington Post and their awesome articles about why Brad and Angelina are on the rocks. Maybe I’m wrong and no one minds, but either way, as a user, I don’t appreciate being lied to or misinformed. It’s seedy at very best.
Twitter has been working pretty consistently on integrating their revenue model of sponsored tweets, sponsored accounts to follow, and sponsored hashtags over the past year. However, these tweets in the Discover feed are not called out as sponsored interactions like the others. They are snuck in amongst everything else and they are inaccurate. At best it’s an engineering mistake. At the worst it’s spam and an inaccurate representation of their users. They also have received criticism for the amount of spam on Twitter. It’s pretty interesting to me that given this criticism they would spam their own system with inaccurate details.