State Department gets Twitter to shut down fake @StateDeptRussia account
The Russian blogosphere erupted this week with criticism of an apparent State Department effort to court Russian pro-democracy bloggers through the Twitter feed @StateDeptRussia. But it turns out the account was a fake, and the State Department convinced Twitter to shut it down. "We must know the enemy in person and track his steps. Beware ...
The Russian blogosphere erupted this week with criticism of an apparent State Department effort to court Russian pro-democracy bloggers through the Twitter feed @StateDeptRussia. But it turns out the account was a fake, and the State Department convinced Twitter to shut it down.
"We must know the enemy in person and track his steps. Beware to the friends and the readers of this blog! Read, listen, watch @StateDeptRussia," wrote one Russian blogger about the Twitter feed, which had an official State Department logo as its avatar but did not have the blue check mark that certifies a Twitter feed is authentic.
The cached version of the now defunct feed can be found here. Written in Russian, it seemed similar to other State Department feeds around the world, mixing general U.S. policy statements with tweets offering grants to Russian bloggers who wanted to work with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
"Internet activists are changing the world, we are ready to cooperate with the young Russian bloggers," read a tweet from the account on March 19.
"We invite bloggers to cooperate in promoting democracy in Russia, the generous grants are waiting for you," read another March 25 tweet.
Alec Ross, the State Department’s senior advisor for innovation, told The Cable that once the State Department became aware of the account, they asked Twitter to shut it down.
"Through our normal course of business following social media, the Department determined that it was a fake account masquerading as authentic so we alerted Twitter," he said.
Fake accounts are okay if they’re advertised as such (like the very funny @MayorEmanuel) but feeds that are designed to fool the public violates Twitter’s terms of service.
Ross (@alecjross) said part of the excitement and the risk of pushing government communications into cyberspace was the recognition that there were opportunities for others to abuse these tools.
"As the Department grows increasingly strong in social media spaces, we expect counter-measures from people who don’t share our interests," he said.
Ross, who has over 335,000 followers, is now the State Department’s top tweeter, following the departure of his cohort Jared Cohen (@jaredcohen), who is now the head of a new "think-do" tanks called Google Ideas.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.