Shutting down an impersonator on Twitter

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Tuesday March 2, 2010.

As some of you may already be aware, somebody recently started up a Twitter account using my name, picture, and a slight variation of my username to throw insults around at various local personalities. My initial reaction was one of surprise. While I have a pretty good idea who the genius behind it was, I never thought the account would catch on—which it didn’t. See, my relevance left the building as soon as everyone else realized that they could do what I do (hint to social media salespeople—you’re not nearly as smart as you tell people you are).

I was going to let it go, as it was little more than a minor annoyance. But the thought occurred to me that I could learn something from this. I had an actual impersonator on Twitter, and I could test out how they deal with them. I searched around for the link to report this (scroll all the way down on the main Twitter page to click “Help,” then click on the “Policy” link, then find “Impersonation”) and came across a page asking for the information below, which I sent them:

A user (@mrsjerz) is using my name, profile picture, and a play off of my username to pretend to be me and post offensive things directed at people I know, work with, and live in the same area as. What are my options? Below is my relevant information:

Username of the person impersonating you (or the URL of their profile page): mrsjerz
Your First and Last Name: Ryan Jerz
Your Twitter username (if you have one): mrjerz
Address: [My Address]
Phone: [My phone number]
Brief description of the impersonating content: Offensive insults directed at people in my community, my friends, and my colleagues

After a week, I received a message back:

Hello,

We need to confirm your identity in order to further investigate this report. Please provide a faxed copy of a valid photo ID (i.e., driver’s license) within 48 hours of receiving this email.

Please fax the document to Twitter at 415-222-0922. This is a United States number, so be sure to include the appropriate international dialing code if you’re sending from outside the United States.

Include your ticket number and write “Attention: Policy Support, Twitter Inc.” We need to be able to see your full name and photo on the faxed ID, so please try to send a legible copy. This information will be kept confidential, and will be deleted once we have used it to verify your identity.

For security reasons, we are only able to accept this information via fax; our systems strip incoming email attachments. If a fax machine is unavailable, you can send a fax from your computer for free through third-party services such as FaxZero (http://faxzero.com)

Thank you,

Th
Twitter Trust and Safety

I had to fax them a copy of my driver’s license to prove I was really me. No problem. I did that and sent a message a couple days later. Within two days I received the following:

Hello,

Thank you for providing this information. We have removed the reported profile from circulation due to violation of our Terms of Service regarding impersonation. Your faxed ID has been shredded.

Thanks,

Th
Twitter Trust and Safety

Done deal.

Basically, it was pretty painless and Twitter handled it exactly as I had hoped they would. No jerking around—just tell us who you are and we’ll take care of the problem. I would hope this is the end of jackasses starting these types of accounts, but I also know who a lot of the people behind these things are, so I’m not counting on it.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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