A tweet from a bogus account said that the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was dead Tuesday, sparking confusion and propelling Thatcher’s name to Twitter’s list of worldwide trending topics. But Thatcher wasn’t dead. She was just the latest newsmaker to be “offed” by rumors that are easy to spread and hard to dispell in a land of one-click retweets
If you want to “kill” someone notable on Twitter, Thatcher’s premature and entirely fake death offers a perfect step-by-step guide for how to do it.
Step 1: Create a fake Twitter account
To increase the likelihood that people will believe you, pretend to be a news organization that might be based in the city where your intended victim lives. Since those Twitter accounts will likely be taken (if they aren’t, you’re impersonating the wrong news agency), create a name that’s a variation on the title of your company, like @OfficialSkyNews.
If you don’t feel like impersonating a news brand, impersonate an official or a famous person. Last time Twitter “killed” Thatcher, someone used a fake Twitter account for Carla Bruni.
Step 2: Make your fake account look legitimate
not real ----> MT— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) August 14, 2012
@officialskynews: BREAKING NEWS Former PM Margaret Thatcher has passed away at the age of 86 after prolonged illness.
WHOOPS fake account apologies. deleting— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 14, 2012
You can make the account look more legitimate by having followers. The account behind this Thatcher hoax amassed more than 32,000 followers before publishing word that the Iron Lady had kicked the bucket. You can buy yourself some followers over at Social Media Corp. Status People’s Ben Archer documented how easy it is to buy followers. He purchased 1,000 followers for just $10 (and promptly created an app to expose this practice). It’s unclear how @OfficialSkyNews got all of its followers, but this graph shows that the most dramatic growth in followers happened over just a few days in June.
Step 4: Retreat
Once you’ve got the Internet buzzing, it’s only a matter of time before people start asking questions. Avoid answering questions and try to cover your tracks by changing your username like @OfficialSkyNews did.
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