Folks, it was fake: parody political accounts

UPDATE: Julia Gillard remains Prime Minister after a leadership spill earlier today. Read on for some of what occurred on Twitter during this political event ..


Australian federal politics is abuzz with news of a leadership spill today – Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared there will be a vote amongst her ALP Caucus at 4.30pm AEST.

As always, Twitter is enabling people to share the news, their speculation, analysis, snark and humour. Much of this has been under the hashtag #spill.

What’s interesting about today’s Twitter coverage in particular, is that a tweet sent from a fake political account has been seen as genuine and retweeted by some, including politicians and members of the press. Kevin Rudd – former PM and assumed contender for the leader (although at this point he doesn’t seem to have yet publicly declared) – has a number of parody accounts and the @_KRuddMP account seems to be adept at capturing his tone of voice. So when the account shared the tweet below, it was widely seen as official:

Senator Ursula Stephens was one of those caught by this; she retweeted the fake Kevin Rudd declaration and later apologised:

ABC journalist Latika Bourke tweeted warning:

And other media members did likewise:

Media fake Rudd-related tweets
Media fake Rudd-related tweets

But it was too late for some tweeters and media outlets. It was tweeted that Channel 7 (location unnamed) unwittingly read out this fake tweet on air, believing it to be genuine. A few Twitter users were aghast the media could get this wrong. The genuine Kevin Rudd Twitter account has the blue verification tick – and before using any tweet under these circumstances, the press could check and rechecked its veracity.

Parody is part of  Twitter’s culture and certainly is not against its terms and conditions:

“Twitter users are allowed to create parody, commentary, or fan accounts (including role-playing). Twitter provides a platform for its users to share and receive a wide range of ideas and content, and we greatly value and respect our users’ expression” – Twitter help centre.

However there are guidelines. The account should be readily identified as fake. The fake Rudd account in question does an official Rudd photograph and appropriate brand colours which can easily mislead. But the Twitter bio? It’s clearly silly: “Lead singer of K Rudd experience feat Abby and Jasper. Disgraced psychopath and former PM”.

Twitter further advises:

“If an account is engaged in parody and follows all of the above recommendations, it will generally be free to continue in its parody so long as it doesn’t mislead or deceive others. These are considered best practices for clearly marking accounts as one that is engaging in non-impersonation parody/commentary”.

What this episode does remind us of, is the pressure to be first with the news on Twitter.

When the Prime Minister declared – during Question Time in Parliament House this afternoon – that the ballot would be held at 4.30pm, it was only seconds later that the #spill and #auspol streams were filled with the news. There would be enormous pressure on the media to share the news first and many would be seeking some quote from the unusually quiet Mr Rudd.

So, what’s the latest from the fake K Rudd?  These tweets … they’re clearly parody. Folks.

Fake K Rudd tweets
Fake K Rudd tweets



Tweet from fake Rudd account
Tweet from fake Rudd account

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