Open letter to Twitter on Zuma’s twitter machine and Bin Laden tweeting from the dead

I am not good with open letters as I tend to get carried away such that I sometimes lose focus on why I write these open letters in the first place. But I hope I do not love focus on this one.

I am writing this letter in protest to spoof twitter accounts I have witnessed on Twitter for a number of times now. The accounts include those of the South African President Jacob Zuma (@JacobZuma_, @PresJZuma, @JZuma and @jacobzuma, to mention a few). Julius Malema, the country’s ruling party youth league president, is also among those who have had accounts created in or with their names.

According to your rules on impersonation policy these accounts such as that of President Zuma are a violation of Twitter policy which all twitters should not breach.

You describe impersonation as “pretending to be another person or entity in order to deceive” which is a “violation of the Twitter Rules and may result in permanent account suspension”. And people are still allowed to create parody, commentary, or fan accounts whose usernames “should not be the exact name of the subject of the parody, commentary, or fandom” in order to distinguish them from the real account. The profile name should further “not list the exact name of the subject without some other distinguishing word, such as ‘not, ‘fake,’ or ‘fan’”.

The rules further state that the ‘bio’ should include a statement to distinguish it from the real identity such as “This is a parody,” “This is a fan page,” “Parody Account,” “Fan Account,” “Role-playing Account,” or “This is not affiliated with…” and that communication with other users “should not, through private or public communication with other users, try to deceive or mislead others about your identity”. This includes sending direct message other users “implying you are the actual subject”. It’s not allowed.

Although the first and the third accounts of Zuma did not have any ‘bio’ at the time of writing, the second one, however, had this as its bio: “Somewhere is southern Africa. Social Dancer, Legislator and Husband to many. All in all, a very busy man” and home page “” while the third “Anywhere I lay my showercap (sic). President. Statesman. Father. Borrower” as a bio. So it is clear from where I sit when I wrote this that the two accounts with said bios hade violated the Twitter Impersonation Policy.

That I am not the “user being impersonated or someone legally authorized to act on behalf of the user/entity” makes it difficult for me to report this violation of your impersonation policy and I am not sure if someone from the @PresidencyZA would be successful in lodging a complaint with you regarding these “spoof” accounts about the South African president. So I hope someone from the @PresidencyZA can assist with this case because they’d be in a better position to provide details as requested such as their “title and legal relationship to the person/entity involved” being Jacob Zuma in this case.

But since the verification of account programme has since been closed, I guess the only way to check the validity of the account is by linking one’s Twitter to their official website (or blog if the have any. And if you don’t tough! Or maybe a Facebook account might help, I think, especially for those who cannot or do not blog like some of us).

And while I am still on this issue, I am not sure though if you have also noticed that after the death of Osama Bin Laden, two more accounts were created with his name. When I last checked, they were @/BINLADEN_0SAMA, @0samaBinLaden_, @_0samaBinLaden_ and @0samaBlnLaden. And with Bin Laden now killed by US President @BarackObama who has many spoof accounts himself – the Bin Laden accounts are therefore a violation of Twitter policy on the deceased.

According to the policy you can remove the account or assist its family remove the account upon being “notified that a Twitter user has passed away”. However, it is surprising that even after Obama agreed to having given directions/authority to killing Bin Laden you still have not closed/removed his many accounts.

With this widely available information you do not need my “full name, contact information (including email address), and (my) relationship to [Bin Laden]”, his username because he has many accounts and that information is even available to your since you are the guy approving and registering these accounts and you certainly do not even need a “link to a public obituary or news article [about him]”.

By the way, I am grateful and it is my pleasure to inform you and the rest of the world that indeed the President Jacob Zuma has joined Twitter and is using @SAPresident as his username. This was confirmed by Zanele Mngadi and Sunil Gopal today from the @PresidencyZA in an email to me upon requesting their confirmation of the said account.


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