I just can't believe it. On Friday afternoon, my Twitter stream was overflowing with Tweets and Retweets of what could only be best described as an outpouring or gushing of love and support for my new book by some of the world's most recognized celebrities in the world. Seriously...WTF!?
See for yourself...
I'm sure by now you've figured out that these are fake...these Tweets are not real and I didn't actually publish them....but that's the point. What if I had? Allow me to explain...
These tweets were generated using a controversial service LemmeTweetThatForYou. Although the site is about a year old, I just learned about LTTFY upon reading a rather serious article today on Poynter that points to the darker side of the service, "...site raises concerns for journalists."
While it's all fun and games at first, there are incredible implications that can arise for those who do not take proper measures to check facts. And in a real-time world, getting to the truth is often an important task that goes undone. There's an innate element of trust in social streams...either that or inherent gullibility or laziness. People tend to believe what they see and react accordingly. There are people who are already ReTweeting this post without getting this far to see it's in fact a farce.
That should be a bit scary for journalists and anyone else concerned about potential hoaxes. Of course, it would be pretty easy to debunk one of these fake tweets if you just visit the person's actual Twitter profile to see if the tweet really exists.
What's the big deal you might ask?
Everything you see in the screenshot above is customizable. From username to date and time to the number of ReTweets and Favorites, you can put Tweets into anyone's mouth or fingertips in real-time.
As Jeff Sonderman wisely cautions readers, "But what if it's passed off as screenshot evidence of an allegedly deleted tweet? Much tougher to disprove. Proceed with caution."
Indeed. Sometimes in real-time, we need to take a moment to make sure that what we see is right...right now. Verify. Fact check. Take a breath before reacting. At the same time, we need to take a moment to made sure what we also do is right...in real-time. As I've always said, with social media comes great responsibility. But what doesn't change, even in the face of technology, is ethics. You are what you Tweet...even if you fake it.
UPDATE: Jason Falls (@JasonFalls) makes an important point...a point that I didn't emphasize in my story. I'll make the point now and also demonstrate his point of view through Tweets...
UPDATE 2: My friend Paul Sinclair also alerted me to a site where you can fake wikipedia pages.