What would you do if someone tried to muddy your reputation by creating a Twitter account similar to your own? One that is unflattering, even defamatory.
It’s easy for someone to do. All it takes is an e-mail address and a little time. One day you’re happily tweeting away, the next day you’re wondering who the hell started a Twitter account that suggests you want to be the next Clay Aiken.
There’s Raermer, a Twitter account begun in September by a Mr. “Lichard Raermer,” and Evil Laermer, which launched in September. The infrequent tweets from Raermer mainly poke fun of the real Laermer’s propensity for spelling errors.
Evil Laermer includes tweets like, “Thinking about handing out some Christmas bonuses … no just kidding. Lol” and “I honestly believe that I can be the new Clay Aiken.” Those are among the few tweets I could print on a family blog like this one. Most of them are quite nasty and even sexual in nature. (The Twitter account does indicate in the bio that it is satire.)
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent this from happening; all you can do is minimize the damage. So, I asked the real Richard Laermer if he had any advice to share.
Here are five steps you should take if someone starts a shadow Twitter account mocking or parodying you, courtesy of the real Laermer.
1. Get in touch with Twitter. Request a verifiable account.
Send the company an e-mail detailing the situation, ask if they’ll disable the offending account or give you a verifiable account, which includes the badge you see here.
Unfortunately, getting Twitter to act on a request—unless you’re famous—is like getting the Pope to give you an annulment. Harder, probably. Laermer has written to Twitter, with little success so far.
2. Tweet: “It’s not me.”
This one is easy. Do it right away. If someone is aping you on Twitter, send a tweet that says, “Evil [Me] is not me.”
3. Spell it out in your Twitter bio.
If the counterfeit Twitter feed is strikingly similar to your own then indicate in your bio that you are not the author. Laermer has not taken this step, even though some people have suggested that he authors Raermer. (He said he doesn’t; it’s done, he said, by a former employee that quit after he refused to give her a raise. PRNewser blog quoted the Raermer author as saying he/she has never worked at RLM.) As for Evil Laermer, the real Laermer remarked, “No smart people think I’m behind it.”
4. Search Twitter lists. DM people if the fake accounts are on their lists.
Some people might mistakenly include the fake Twitter accounts on their Twitter lists. For instance, if someone is quickly creating a list of PR people, they might unknowingly select Raermer or Evil Laermer. If this happens to you, simply direct message (DM) these people to ask if they will remove the accounts from their lists. That will limit their exposure.
5. Be vigilant! Block the person so they don’t start following your followers.
When Raermer and Evil Laermer first went live, the people behind these Twitter accounts began following Laermer’s followers. In turn, many people may have followed them back, perhaps believing it was the actual Laermer. In this case, make sure you block the account (or accounts) immediately, so they can’t see your followers and start following them.
Laermer said he might pursue legal action if the tweets become libelous or if they start to affect his business or continue to insult his friends—as Evil Laermer has done.
Remember, you can’t control what’s being said on social media. But, in cases like this, you can minimize the damage. And you can even have a laugh. Laermer admitted that he reads Raermer’s tweets occassionally.
“Some tweets are funny,” he said.