Twitter has suspended an account that purported to be the official English language feed of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The social media platform said it had suspended @putinRF_eng “for impersonation based on a valid report we received from Russian officials”.
The account was reportedly created in 2012 and posted mainly official links to Mr Putin’s public appearances.
It had accumulated nearly one million followers.
Many of its followers believed the account to be real, and it had featured in reports by the BBC and others.
Twitter said, after receiving advice from Russian officials, the account breached its impersonation policy, which states: “Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended”.
There is an official Kremlin Twitter account. It is not yet clear who was behind @putinRF_eng.
This is not the first time Twitter users have been deceived by fake accounts. Earlier this year, an account in the name of American investor Warren Buffett amassed some 2m likes for a tweet offering motivational advice for young people.
But the lack of a blue verification tick and the wrong spelling of Mr Buffett’s name alerted many to the fact it was fake.
How to spot a fake Twitter account:
- Absence of a blue tick: Why wouldn’t an account be verified by Twitter? (But remember, not everybody applies for one)
- Limited activity, or under-activity: Does it post too much for such an important person? Does it post too little to seem like somebody trying to keep up a public message?
- Age of the account: When did the account begin?
- Did they tweet about events which involved them? Check their Twitter timeline against the dates of news stories about them. Is the content relevant?
- Incorrect spellings, particularly of their name and of locations, companies and other people with which they are strongly associated
- Who follows them? How many followers do they have? Who do they follow?
- Does the account link to official sites? Do official sites link back to them?
- Have they ever cross-referenced their Twitter account with other social media activity, such as a Facebook Live or a Reddit AMA?