Just a quick one from me and something that I hope will help fellow educators, and beyond, after my Twitter account was cloned a few weeks ago!
This academic year has seen many “firsts” across the education space and while many of them have been positive, with every pinch of salt there’s always the possibility that not everything will go according to plan.
Yes, the academic year has had its challenges but we made it through the most difficult of years to live to tell the tale. Despite the numerous hurdles, mountains and at times what may have felt like an insurmountable obstacle(s), one that may not have been on your radar and one that certainly wasn’t on mine was the rise in fake Twitter accounts or even being cloned on social media. Perhaps more worrying than the rise in these accounts is the speed with which they have gained followers and people’s personal information, which begs the question; how can we ensure we are safeguarding ourselves against these fake accounts?
Commodity vs Consistency
Educators will often be in an almost autopilot mode when ensuring their classrooms, and schools, are safe places for students working within the framework of their school policy and what they know to be pivotal with regards to safeguarding. As we know this can take many forms within a school context on matters around positive steps and actions towards a safe school community within and beyond the walls of the building.
On the other side of the scale is often the acknowledgment that most teachers are pressed for time. It’s often mentioned as being a commodity that we all wish we had more of but in reality the role of educator can be all encompassing and especially so for those with particular roles in schools. So how can we safeguard ourselves? Consistency is key, we are consistent in the classroom so should aim to mirror this in our online and personal lives wherever possible.
Practice what you preach
While there are many educators on social media platforms, by asking yourself some of the following questions we/you should be able to spot the fakes and safeguard yourself and your PLN;
- How can I identify if this account really is a fellow educator?
- Do I already follow, or know, anyone by that name?
- How long have they been on Twitter for?
- Have they engaged in or with anything on the platform?
- When they message you, what are they really after? What are their intentions?
Some of the questions may seem rather obvious, however, if this year was anything to go on, the proliferation of fake accounts showed that we weren’t asking these questions of ourselves. I include myself within this as someone who was cloned by a hacker/bot and my PLN helped to not only identify this but set about getting the account removed; thank you to all of you in my PLN!
It’s worth looking carefully at when the account was created, if it was new this month then the next few strategies are likely to help you identify the account’s motives. While not every account is fake, and more educators are joining social media, it’s certainly not something to overlook and the remaining strategies will help you get to the root of the issue (if there is one that is!).
It’s likely that you already follow someone within your PLN (professional learning network) that already has that name. Bots/hackers will use the same name but change the handle (@) ever so slightly, perhaps by adding/removing an underscore or additional letter, so a quick search of who you follow and who follows you will likely identify the fake account. Time well spent I hope you’ll agree.
Has this account engaged with anything of the platform; whether it be likes, retweets or created any content. If the account is fake they will likely not have engaged with anything so this can be a quick tell and takes seconds by simply clicking on the profile’s “likes” section.
Typically new accounts will have low follower counts, they may have followed a few people but won’t have many followers themselves. It’s more than likely that the above few strategies will help you to identify the fake accounts before getting to this stage but it’s a worthwhile consideration all the same. One for your personal/professional judgment here.
If you were to follow a fake account and receive a message from them, is their communication what you’d expect from a professional educator? While many of us maintain our professional conduct on social media or even in messaging format, would you so readily share your information with someone or advise someone else to so readily share their information if a friend was asking you for advice in this circumstance. I suspect the answer here is no, with that in mind at the very least it’s a good assumption to ensure you don’t share your information to maintain your own safeguarding. Coupled with this, from your experience on the platform(s) to date is this a normal action from a new follower, the answer here is likely no again so please do be mindful.
If the above strategies lead you to believe the account is fake then it’s wise to report and block the account, this not only safeguards you but also others within the community. It is faster to get the fake accounts removed by reporting them as targeted harassment as opposed to being imposters. There are tools out there that will calculate the likelihood of an account being fake, such as @Botometer, or remove fake accounts from your profile, like @circleboom, however, the above strategies should give you the tools to prevent these from being necessary.
To summarise this post, below is an infographic I made when I was cloned by a fake account to help spread the word and give some strategies to help safeguard yourself and others:
You can see the original tweet here. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and to my PLN for helping identify and resolve my clone, I hope you found it useful and please do share this post to help your PLN.