The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

September 28, 2012

Twitter shuts down fake political accounts

After complaints from West Virginia Democratic officials

CHARLESTON — Twitter has shut down accounts set up in the names of West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw and state Sen. Walt Helmick after Democratic Party officials complained they were fakes.

The social networking service has also suspended at least three other accounts operated by West Virginia Republicans as the general election season heats up.

The one in Helmick’s name may have sent just a few tweets and attracted 10 followers, according to a Google search. The fake McGraw account had at least 29 messages, most of which were posted in July and were negative toward McGraw and other Democrats. It attracted at least 20 followers, a Google search showed, even though the accounts were removed from Twitter.

“So Martinsburg has a victory center? Copycats I already opened an office there with taxpayer money to help me get re elected,” read one tweet from the McGraw account.

Derek Scarbro, executive director of the state Democratic party, said he alerted Twitter immediately after he and his staff noticed tweets from these accounts in early August. Scarbro said Thursday he could not recall specifics of the messages they saw, but he said they were “very salacious.”

“Most of them were very derogatory,” Scarbro said. “I quickly could tell they weren’t part of the campaigns.”

McGraw, who turns 76 in November, is seeking a sixth term. His office has its own Twitter account, and he has a Facebook page that posts both office and campaign news. Helmick, 68, is running for agriculture commissioner and his campaign has a Twitter account.

“This is the silly season and it is hard to say who was responsible,” campaign spokesman Tom Susman said of the fake account.

Twitter officials did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment this week. The networking service’s rules include a “Twitter Impersonation Policy” that says that “accounts pretending to be another person or entity in order to confuse or deceive can be permanently suspended.”

As Twitter plays an increasingly significant role in political campaigning, parody accounts lampooning officeholders and candidates — with the proper disclaimers — have become common. The dirty tricks that can accompany electioneering have emerged in the social media world as well.

Earlier this year, Twitter suspended a fake account targeting former Maine Gov. Angus King, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin advised her Twitter followers last week to disregard several tweets after her account was apparently hacked.

Earlier this month, Twitter suspended at least three West Virginia-based accounts run by Republicans. One is for the New Majority Fund, a political action committee formed to aid GOP House of Delegates candidates. The PAC’s chairman, Delegate Troy Andes, and executive director Roman Stauffer did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Stauffer also retweeted at least one of the fake McGraw tweets from his personal account, according to the Google search. That personal twitter account also has been suspended, as has the account for fellow Republican operative Greg Thomas.

Through his firm, Targeted Communication Strategies, Thomas has advised the Republican candidate for governor, Bill Maloney. Thomas also did not respond to requests for comments Thursday.

Scott Will, campaign manager for McGraw’s GOP opponent, Patrick Morrisey, said he saw a few of the tweets purporting to be from the Democrat but has no idea who set up the account. He cited the Morrisey campaign’s ongoing efforts to engage McGraw publicly, such as by seeking debates.

“When we take issue with McGraw, we do so openly and don’t hide behind a phony account,” Will said Thursday.

Helmick’s opponent, Republican Kent Leonhardt, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

 

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

  • Spill company president ‘bears no fault’

    The president of Freedom Industries “bears no fault” for a West Virginia chemical spill that spurred a water-use ban for up to 10 days for 300,000 people, his lawyer says in a court filing.
    On Friday, Freedom President Gary Southern withdrew his application to get paid for work he already did during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. He also wanted Freedom and its insurance to cover his legal fees related to the Jan. 9 spill.

    April 5, 2014

  • Agencies to ask West Virginia residents about chemical spill

    Health agencies are making thousands of phone calls and going door-to-door to ask West Virginians how a January chemical spill affected them.
    The state Bureau for Public Health announced Thursday that volunteers will survey randomly selected households in nine counties about health concerns from the spill.

    April 5, 2014

  • Hearing scheduled on police shooting suit dispute

    The family of a Virginia man who was shot and killed by Martinsburg police officers after a scuffle is asking a judge to order the city to give them investigative and autopsy reports from the incident.
    The estate of 50-year-old Wayne Arnold Jones of Stephens City, Va., filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against the city after he was killed on March 13, 2013.

    April 4, 2014

  • Families remember mine disaster victims

    Four years after losing friends and relatives in a West Virginia mine disaster, 11 people preferred to watch a film together that they knew would reopen those wounds.
    The film, “Upper Big Branch - Never Again,” by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship theorized that his old company wasn’t at fault for the deadly explosion, despite four investigations that concluded otherwise.

    April 3, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads