How To Trick People Into Thinking Niall Horan Tweeted You
There's been a lot of stories around tweets and texts lately but CLARE CULLEN explores why people should view them with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Today, Niall Horan from the band One Direction tweeted about how much he loved my videos.
Except he didn't.
Allow me to explain.
In the early days of Twitter, there was a requirement to be a Photoshop-whiz in order to fake a tweet or a Facebook post. Now, there is no such requirement.
A story went viral today about a tweet, alleged to have been sent by Paris Hilton, which confused Nelson Mandela with Martin Luther King. Hilton claimed the tweet was faked, while the 'Deleted Tweets' account claimed that she just did not want to own up to the tweet. The heiress received a barrage of abuse on social networking sites over the tweet which many believed that she had tweeted and deleted.
However these days, you don't even have to have Photoshop to be able to fake both Twitter and Facebook posts from anyone you want.
I first realised tweets could be faked when a Twitter account I followed began tweeting messages of support from Justin Beiber and Barack Obama. A video maker with a modest following, I couldn't understand how all of these famous people had stumbled across his videos at once. I was then perplexed when I couldn't find the tweet in their timelines. I soon realised that you can claim anyone said anything on Twitter by putting RT in front of their username.
People soon wised up to this practice and now it's possible to completely fake a tweet while still making it look like it was sent from the person in question.
Typing 'fake tweet' into Google brings up "about 84,300,000 results" in 0.24 seconds and 'fake Facebook post' brings up "about 155,000,000 results" in 0.29 seconds.
The site I used allows you to fake a tweet from anyone you want simply and easily, simply by entering their username. The website than pulls in their profile picture, (even their Twitter background for authenticity) and allows you to write what you wish, within a 140-character limit.
There is no clear way to differentiate between a fake text and a real one when the tweet is viewed as a screenshot. The key difference between a real tweet and a fake one is that a real tweet can be embedded and a fake one cannot. However, this raises an issue that all embedded tweets will disappear when the user deletes the tweet, and many could claim a screenshot is the only way to ensure a copy of the original tweet remains.
Another way to tell whether or not a tweet is real is to check the Timeline of the user alleged to have sent the tweet. However, if the story is based on that user deleting the tweet, again this solves nothing.
This means that we must view stories originating from Twitter with some healthy skepticism - but also with suspicion. If the link between real and fake is blurred, someone could just as easily claim a real, deleted tweet was fake as vice versa.
My tweet 'from' Niall Horan got 2 retweets and 10 favourites, as you can see from the embedded tweet in the article. However, if I wanted to make you believe it was more, all I would have to do is go back to the tweet generator, copy and paste and edit the retweet score.
As you can see, it has now been retweeted "seven million times".
I was also congratulated by some friends, family and co-workers both on Twitter and in person. See the gallery below.
Text messages are another thing that are very easy to fake, especially iPhone text messages.
Recently there were claims by former employees of Britney Spears that they had texts from the singer during her 'meltdown' in 2008. The texts were then tweeted. The tweeted texts had no time stamp, did not show the 'from' part of the phone, and at least one was framed in a green iPhone bubble- which users were quick to point out is how outgoing texts are framed. However, the author defended their validity and the story went on to be covered across the world.
Text messages are often used as 'evidence' to back up a claim - but texts from other people are ridiculously easy to fake and it takes little to no effort.
Fans of old school methods would perhaps prefer to save their own number in their phone as someone else and just text themselves. Simple!
Even easier, users can use a variety of websites to easily and quickly create fake iPhone conversation screenshots, time-stamped with dates and times of your choice.
Typing 'Fake iPhone text' into Google brings up "about 34,800,000 results" but my favourite is 'iPhone Text Generator' which grants you the most freedom over length, time date and more.
This website can create exact copies of iPhone conversations, from anyone you want and with the ability to say anything you want.
To help prove my point, Twitter user 'DiscoSunbeams' sent me this text message she 'received' from Britney Spears.
Last but not least, it is important to note that fake tweets and texts open the creator to legal action, especially if the content within is in any way contentious, offensive or defamatory. Just because it's easy to say someone said something they didn't online, it does not mean you should do it.
Below see a gallery of reaction to the news that Niall Horan 'tweeted' me. Sorry, friends - let this be a lesson.