New Victorian Premier Denis Napthine the victim of fake Twitter account

Only hours after the shock resignation of the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, and emergence of Denis Napthine as his replacement, Napthine announced “at least I’m not burdened by high expectations.” At least, the fake @DenisNapthineMP – “not currently the Member for South West Coast in the Victorian Parliament and Premier of Victoria” – did.

The fake @DenisNapthineMP Twitter account was tweeting opinion before the real Premier was able to properly address the press and the people of Victoria about the leadership of their state.The establishment of a fake account is the last thing a party already knee-deep in crisis needs; luckily this one was not malicious.

“The appearance of a fake account could have been prevented with proper communications planning and is a timely reminder to organisations to ensure that they own the names associated with their brands offline as well as online,” says social media specialist, Dionne Lew.

This is not the first time that organisations have been punished for failing to understand the impacts of social media on reputation, Lew says

“The now notorious sacking of CEO Rosa Storelli by the board of MLC last year became a months-long media frenzy in which it was impossible to Google the names of the organisation or people involved without landing on a link to the crisis. Once again the narrative was owned by those who had an already established presence online and were able to dominate the SEO (search engine optimization).”

The visibility of a website is determined by algorithms – search engine optimisation (SEO) – which determine where you appear on the list when somebody types your name into a search engine.

The earlier and more frequently a site appears when people search for a keyword, the more visitors the search engine will push towards it.

Lew says companies are regularly dealing with the reputation risk the online world presents, but new legal challenges leave many companies frustrated and exposed.

Last year a senior executive of CBA’s Bankwest subsidiary was impersonated by an inflammatory tweeter for weeks while the organisation tried to deal with the issue. Whereas in the past the CBA would have been able to issue an injunction against a media organisation, Twitter’s processes mean that it takes weeks to deal with impersonators. The company went through a long-winded process to have the fake account shut down and Twitter’s would not, under its privacy policy, release the name of the culprit.

Political impersonation is not a new phenomenon though; the former Telstra staffer Leslie Nassar impersonated Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on Twitter for quite some time, arguing, “Satire is an important part of any healthy democracy”. That was in 2009.

(Hat-tip @socialmediademons, which alerted our social media expert, Dionne Lew, to the fake account.)

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