Last night chaos erupted on twitter when hundreds of thousands of people started seeing tweets in their time line from a mysterious Rob Twizz. Most people’s initial reaction (including mine after my sister told me about the strange tweets popping up in her time line) was that their accounts had been hacked to start following him, or RTwizz had found an exploit to get people to follow him without permission (similar to a bug twitter had a few years ago) however after some research I found this to be quite different.
Apparently this Robert Twizz is a “Rapper with a sense of humour”. He already had a moderate on-line presence before this event with YouTube videos and a group of fans following him on his ‘old’ and supposedly hacked twitter account. Apparently for this wannabe rapper, his 2,000 followers on his old profile just wasn’t enough and he needed to do something big to get more followers and he had been planning this for a very long time.
Despite not being as interesting or as ingenious as finding an exploit to make users follow him or being able to hack into peoples account directly and change make them follow him, what Robert Twizz did was more deceptive, cunning and to be totally honest; simple. Robert Twizz (or a friend of his if you are to take his tweets in defence as truth) had an account under the name of Justin Lee Collins which he created 2 years ago and left dormant for people to start following, in the thought that it was the official Justin Lee Collins. After accumulating 130,000 followers under the name of someone else the account was then totally re-branded to the identity of RTwizz in every way possible. The user name and name on the account were change, the profile picture and background picture, the bio and anything else that could link this account with its previous identity was removed and then last night Robert Twizz sent his first tweet.
If you look over all of Rob’s tweets he is trying to come across as genuine in an attempt to keep the followers that he has ‘obtained’ and in some cases is close to begging people not to unfollow however it is these tweets on his feed that allowed me to uncover everything about what Rob was up to. The first clue was thanks to a response which lead me to a tweet sent to him from @CarlyBunny.
Not only did this tweet make me realise that these people were probably following this user before (as he was not showing in any of the affected users recent follows) but also gave me a name to work with. Despite having this, I was still uncertain on whether on not this was a fake account just re-branded or a famous person’s account hacked or if it was something all together different. What really confirmed that it was not a twitter exploit of some sort was his later tweets to other people accusing him of hacking.
In all of his responses he mentions that someone else “built” the twitter account. The way it was phrased was subtle but most certainly suggests that the account was created through deception. Now armed with the method and a possible name for the previous identity of this account I had to find some convincing evidence that this account was previously owned by Justin Lee Collins or was under his name. To do this I thought of something that identifies a twitter account that not only would be impossible for Rob to remove but would actually be something that he would want to keep: the places that the account was listed.
Surely enough this lead to confirmation. The lists were typical of all the sorts of things that Justin Lee Collins would be listed in: “celebs”, “comedians”, “famous”, “tv” and my personal favourite, a list for all the Justin’s of the world, “@justingould/justins“.
After speaking with many people who this has affected they have all confirmed that they may have followed a fake Justin Lee Collins account or even a real Justin Lee Collins account that was hacked. To clear up the arguments I was having on twitter as to whether or not this was the real account of Justin Lee Collins hacked or a fake one built with the intention of re-branding in this way I had a bit more investigation to do. I did a search on the net for the official account of Justin Lee Collins and soon stumbled upon a website confirming that there was a fake twitter account set up in Justin Lee Collins’ name.
Unfortunately the site didn’t mention the user name of this account or give a link to it but what it did give was some dates. The post shown above was published on the 4th of February 2009 with the confirmation from Justin’s Agent on the 16th. Looking at these dates I notice something. Earlier in my investigations I was interested to see when the account was set up to see if that would give any clues. As soon as I saw the date on this article I instantly realised!
If this wasn’t confirmation enough then I don’t know what is. In the fast moving world of twitter and the internet, if a mildly convincing fake twitter account was set up for a relatively famous person, it would not have taken long from the date of creation to the date when the fake was uncovered and confirmed. The dates here line up perfectly and with the other facts (especially that all affected users seem to know who Justin Lee Collins is and think they may have followed him some time in the past) there is no arguing that Rob Twizz (or someone he knew) set up the account in 2009 with this outcome in mind.
In conclusion, whether you are now following @officialrtwizz or not we need to show Mr. Twizz that deception is not the way to get followers – you need to do it the hard way like everyone else. Please block and report that account for spam. When enough people have done this, the account will flag up for twitter as suspicious activity and will then hopefully get deleted as in my opinion this is just as bad as spamming these people, who don’t want to read his tweets or even be following him! Oh and if you really don’t like R. Twizz’s audacity, feel free to block his old account too: @rtwizz!
UPDATE: He has now named himself @newforyou321 and once again attempted to delete all identifying features of his account, including tweets and profile picture and name! Think he is waiting for the heat to die down to make ANOTHER attempt! Will this guy ever give up?
UPDATE: He changed to @MatthewKader for a bit and now he is @Shallowking! I don’t quite know what he is up to? Is this another fake identity he is taking to try and boost his following again? Does he not realise that as tweeting as Matthew Kline Kader he is still going to loose followers that wanted to follow Justin Lee Collins? Has it now been sold on to someone else?