Get more Twitter followers – the Charlie Sheen hacker technique

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Summary:

There’s a new sleazy technique that spammers are using to get an account with lot of Twitter followers, and got 20,000 a day using the “Charlie Sheen” effect.  The trick?  Create a charliesheen account, but replace the lowercase “L” with and uppercase “I”.

Details:

On the day I wrote this blog entry, Charlie Sheen was the biggest thing in the news, outdoing

  • Spring training
  • An NFL strike
  • two wars
  • uprisings in Libya and Egypt
  • whatever Justin Bieber is doing

By the time you read this, I assume Charlie Sheen will be dead, probably from “abdominal pain”.

Regardless, a sleazy spammer figured out a way to get 24,000+ followers in a day by exploiting Charlie’s fame.

Here are the facts and techniques:

  • Charlie Sheen had one of the craziest TV interviews of all time, which was completely nuts and completely entertaining, and created new words and phrases like “tiger blood”, “Adonis DNA” and “bi-winning”
  • Parts are shown in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5aSa4tmVNM
  • Charlie creates a Twitter account, and gets over 1 million followers in the first day – unprecedented in Twitter history
  • New hashtags appear which are related to Charlie, including #tigerblood, #teamsheen, and some others which become Trending Topics due to their popularity

This is where it gets interesting from a Twitter point of view.  Someone creates an account called charliesheen, but since charliesheen was already taken, they created an account that is spelled the same, but they replace the lowercase “L” with an uppercase “I”, which looks identical when you look at the Twitter name in the font that Twitter uses.

Sleazy. Nerdy.  Clever.

They also choose the same picture that Charlie uses on his real account.  No one would type in charliesheen with an uppercase “I” instead of a lowercase “L”. but if you search for sheen, or click on the hashtags to see what all the fuss is about, you’ll see tweets from the fake account.  If you click on the (since the human eye can’t detect the wrong spelling), you see a brand new account with 24,000+ followers, and you’d probably think it was him, so you might follow him.

Why do this?  One reason is that some nerds and hackers just love to get away with it.

Another is that after a few days, they will probably have a Twitter account with 50,000 followers.  If they now change their name to something like Make_More_Money the account will look authoritative because it has such a huge following, without following anyone back, which is almost impossible to fake.

There isn’t much you and I could do about this other than flagging the account as spam.  Twitter should see it and fix it, and should change their font to minimize the possibility of this being done again.  In fact, if you look at a similar account on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/charIiesheen you can clearly see that the lowercase “L” was replace with an uppercase “I”.

Regardless, I thought it was an interesting study.

Therefore I rant.

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3 comments

1 John { 03.03.11 at 8:20 pm }

Good read Pat… Keep up the good work… Now get back to work.

2 Patrick O’Malley { 03.05.11 at 6:33 pm }

Update – the fake CharlieSheen account got to 75,000+ followers by Saturday afternoon (about 3 days), and was then shut down by Twitter

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