independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Porn site owner sold Twitter user name to Israel for 'thousands'

A Twitter user, Israel Melendez, has sold his username on the micro-blogging website to the state of Israel for thousands of euros, it has emerged.

The pornographer sold the @ Israel username to the Israeli government’s foreign Ministry last month for a price that included “five zeroes”.

The Spaniard, who is now based in Miami, Florida, created the account for free in 2007, when Twitter was still in its infancy.

It has been largely dormant in recent months until the “feed” started becoming subjected to a barrage of anti-Semitic comments from users who thought it belonged to the Israeli government.

He told Spain's Publico newspaper that he set up the account under just his first name to avoid contact with a former girlfriend.

Mr Melendez, who runs “adult” website, then approached Israel, firstly as a joke, before they ended up negotiating a sale price.

"My account was basically unused because I was getting dozens of replies every day from people who thought the account belonged to the state of Israel," he told the New York Times.

He did not sell it directly, as the practice is banned by the company. The government was advised by Twitter officials on how to undertake the sale on August 26.

Instead he allowed the Israelis access to his password before they closed it down and reopened it later with different user details.

It has allowed the Israeli foreign ministry to change its username @israelMFA account to @Israel.

Four days later the State of Israel sent out a message that read: "The IsraelMFA twitter account name has been changed to @Israel. Look for us here: twitter.com/israel."

Paul Hirschson, deputy consul general for Israel in Miami, confirmed the Israeli government wanted to obtain the @Israel account.

“Once we decided that we wanted to use the name Israel in our Twitter account we started to look for who had it," the diplomat said.

“It was not important to know who he was and what he used the account for. We needed to have the name of Israel because we are the state of Israel.

"The fact that this man had other activities it was not something that we were aware of at all.”

Mr Hirschson did not disclose the purchase price but he added it was a "reasonable" sum.

"He said he wanted to take his wife and children to a nice restaurant for a good dinner," he added.

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, later denied the asking price was “six figures”.

He said the selling price was significantly lower than what was originally asked for.

“I won’t go into the details of the negotiations, but originally he asked for a five-digit sum and all we paid him was $3,000 (€2,300), period,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

Israel is expected to use the account as part of its multimedia public relations campaign aimed at improving Israel's damaged image overseas.

In April, 2009, CNN bought the @cnnbrk account from James Cox.

Telegraph.co.uk

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