In the past few weeks, multiple Twitter accounts impersonating prominent individuals have successfully amassed thousands of likes and retweets. Several people have fallen for these handles despite each of them carrying signs which hint at their dubiousness — absence of the ‘blue tick’ that verifies genuine accounts and controversial statements not reported by the media. This article will jot down a few of such accounts. We will elaborate on how a web of imposter accounts gained thousands of followers by first posing as important personalities, then posting a piece of misinformation designed to get a lot of eyeballs. In this process, they amplified each other.
1. Mukesh Ambani
Twitter account @Realmukeshamban carries the word ‘real’ in the username to give it a sense of genuineness. Recently, the account had tweeted in Hindi, “I am removing Shahrukh Khan from advertisements of Jio sim cards. What is your opinion? (मैं अपनी Jio सिम के एड से शाहरुख खान को निकाल रहा हूँ। आपकी क्या राय है बताईये!!)” The tweet drew over 10,000 likes and more than 50,000 retweets.
Ambani does not have an official Twitter account. Moreover, media outlets would have reported had the businessman made such a statement.
2. Another fake account impersonating Mukesh Ambani
A second account impersonating Mukesh Ambani made the same tweet regarding Shah Rukh Khan. The username of the account is @ambani_mukesh1 and its bio reads, “Reliance Industries.”
3. Arnab Goswami
Two other accounts with Arnab Goswami’s name have lately garnered large numbers of likes and retweets. Ironically, both these accounts mention “parody” in their bios however, this did not stop people from falling for them.
The first account is @ArnwMGoswami. This account was earlier dedicated to Mukesh Ambani. This was found after going through its tweets.
Another account that calls itself a parody account of Goswami had fooled several Twitter users. The username of this account is @GoswamiArnaw. This account had shared the misinformation that Patanjali’s Coronil was approved by the AYUSH Ministry.
Many users have referred to the account holder as “sir” hinting that they think the handle belongs to Arnab Goswami.
4. Sonu Nigam
A user posing as singer Sonu Nigam (@Realsonu_nigam) also posted a tweet against Shah Rukh Khan. He wrote, “It is our request to Jio’s owner Mukesh Ambani to remove Shah Rukh Khan from ads other we Indian will remove Jio sim card. (Jio के मालिक मुकेश अंबानी से हमारी प्रार्थना हैं शाहरुख खान को अपनी ऐड से निकालो वर्ना हम हिंदुस्तानी अपने मो.से Jio सिम निकाल फेंक देगे..)”
Interestingly, all these fake accounts sharing tweets against Shah Rukh Khan seems to be interlinked. The person handling Nigam’s fake account tweeted a picture of the singer and wrote, “Finally I joined Twitter.” This was retweeted by @RealMuskeshAmbani.
If one tries to access the homepage of @Realsonu_nigam, Twitter shows a message of caution citing “unusual activity”.
5. Kangana Ranaut
An account that used to pose as the handle of Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami later changed its username and profile picture to impersonate Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut. Its initial username was @Arnab52222 which was altered to @Kangana_Ra. Below are screenshots of the same tweet by the handle which claim that the AYUSH Ministry had approved Patanjali’s Coronil. This is a false claim and was debunked by Alt News here.
It is to be noted that both Goswami and Ranaut do not have official Twitter accounts. A handle @KanganaTeam is managed by the latter’s digital team.
This fake account has also tweeted against Shah Rukh Khan claiming that Khan has been replaced with Akshay Kumar for future Jio advertisements.
All of these accounts have retweeted each other in an attempt to amplify the tweets suggesting an organised campaign for misinformation and propaganda. These accounts have shared tweets in favour of the ruling party, against Bollywood, especially the Khans, and have been promoting Ayurveda since Patanjali’s Coronil controversy.
Alt News had earlier penned an article on fake accounts created in the names of world leaders that many, including BJP officeholders, believed to be true. This was after the dispute between India and China was reported. Such a visible pattern is easily identifiable. While users should stay wary of fake accounts, Twitter’s failure to curb their growth needs to be highlighted.