Hoax Twitter accounts – almost unnoticed in Palestine

It seemed like a new era of openness in Palestine — a new Prime Minister began to communicate with the public, on Twitter.

Well… by “communicate” I mean, at least, something more than just sending links to pictures of himself on Facebook.

Screen shot of the supposed Rami Hamdallah Twitter account - at 2 Tweets

Screen shot of the supposed Rami Hamdallah Twitter account - at 2 Tweets

1.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 4 Jun
Welcome! This is my official Twitter account. Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of Palestine.

But for 16 days there were no Tweets, until this –

2.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 20 Jun
I offered my resignation to the President of PA. Official note will be released soon. R.H.

[This, by the way, was the moment that the very new spokesman for the Government, Dr. Ehab Bessaiso, said he began to be suspicious, because of the use of "PA", for since January [and under a decree from President Mahmoud Abbas] no one in the Palestinian Government would continue to refer to themselves as “PA”, or Palestinian Authority.

The first Tweet, in fact, said “Prime Minister of Palestine”…

However, there are Palestinians who do continue to say “PA” [sometimes disdainfully, to indicate that Palestine is hardly a fully sovereign state, that self-determination has not yet been exercised]…

There are some who think the PA is more important than the PLO [which, as UN-designated + generally-accepted "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people", declared the State of Palestine in November 1988].

And, there are some who use terms interchangeably, almost carelessly, who think the terminology has very little meaning anyway.

I myself was more fixated on the term “offered” ["my resignation"], which conformed exactly to the way the announcement was worded in the few official comments and announcements that were made in Ramallah.

And, the Tweet came fast, rather soon after the actual event, though Hamdallah himself had driven off to his hometown of Anabta, in his own car without security escort — and switched off his mobile phone.

In any case, as Dr. Bessaiso said, the resignation was a surprise, nobody expected it. So, after this Tweet [which was reported in the international media, a full 16 days after the first Tweet, during which time nobody -- least of all Rami Hamdallah himself, or any of his staff, or friends, or family -- complained that this was a "hoax" account].

The initial reaction was surprise, confusion, and efforts to change the course of events, then [within an hour of the actual announcement by presidential adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an announcemnt which came before, and therefore preempted, a scheduled third meeting between Abbas and Hamdallah] two final Tweets —

3.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 23 Jun
The President officially accepted my resignation. R.H.

4.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 23 Jun
The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform. R.H.
=================================

The fourth Tweet was, admittedly, a little peculiar.  But, its openness was refreshing.

Then, something happened.

It’s hard to describe or explain.  But the Twitter account, above, morphed into something else.   It became a hoax:

The name Rami Hamdallah was removed.  And the title of the account was re-written in all lower-case letters = @palestinegov

And the Tweets were now from palestinegov Rami Hamdallah [reversed + altered from above, where the Tweets were from Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov ]

The original four Tweets [shown above] remained, but others were added, for a total of eight, which were added and even interspersed between the original Tweets — though it’s not clear how the TimeLine could have been played with, in that way.

The account, in this changed state, can be seen here , as it was once it spun out of control.  The link, here , was provided by Benjamin Doherty @bangpound, via Twitter:

Twitter profile for @palestinegov
twitter.com/palestinegov
Professor RAMI HAMDALLAH, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Official Twitter Accou
nt

8 Posts by palestinegov

1.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
Welcome! This is my official Twitter account. Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of Palestine.

17 days later 2.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah  [This NEW Tweet was somehow inserted into the original TimeLine]
I officially announce my resignation as Prime Minister. Serious health problem force me to resign. The President accepts resignation.   7 days agoReplyRetweetFavorite

3.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
I offered my resignation to the President of PA. Official note will be released soon. R.H.

4.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
The President officially accepted my resignation. R.H.

5.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform. R.H.

6.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah [NEW - added]
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister.

7.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah [NEW - added]
President Mahmoud Abbas expressed me his intention to resign ‘as soon as possible’ after new cabinet’s appointment.R.H.

8.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
This account is an hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti

——– http://topsy.com/twitter/palestinegov ——-

 

Earlier, before it became clear that it was a hoax, and because of the more-or-less credible track record of the account, some people took the added Tweets seriously.

  1. Kamel Hawwash @kamelhawwash 26 Jun @PalestineGov: Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister.”
  2. Rawya Rageh @RawyaRageh 26 Jun RT @PalestineGov Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister #Palestine
  3. Blake Hounshell @blakehounshell 26 Jun wow, interesting! RT @sarahussein: Say what? RT @PalestineGov: Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister.

Some reactions once the hoax became clear, or known:

  1. Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa 26 Jun Finally! (And who dat?) RT @PalestineGov: This account is an hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti
  2. DavidKenner @DavidKenner 26 Jun Apparently a serial hoaxer http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/30/twitter-hoaxer-tommaso-de-benedetti … RT @PalestineGov This account is a hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti

  3. Hugh Naylor @HughNaylor 26 Jun . @PalestineGov OK, now that you’ve been found to be a spoof account, at least start tweeting some biting satire!

==============================

After working itself up into a tizzy, giving  plenty of clues and hints because it wouldn’t be very much fun if the hoax were ignored, all 8 Tweets were scrubbed — Rami Hamdallah’s name disappeared completely [though he remains in office, for now, as the Caretaker Prime Minister] and the name was changed back from @palestinegov to @PalestineGov :

Palestine Gov

Palestine Gov

@PalestineGov

Prime Minister’s Office, Palestine

Palestine · pmo.gov.ps

 

It originally had only 2 Followers:

Tomas Lee

@Tomas_smc

 Sderot, Israel
and

Lidar Gravé-Lazi

Lidar Gravé-Lazi

@JPost_Blogs

Jerusalem Post Managing Blog Editor. http://blogs.jpost.com/  All tweets and opinions are my own.

Tel Aviv

===========================================

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And a spoof account for Mahmoud Abbas, too obvious to be believable..  It Tweeted on only one day, June 27, the day after the [hacked?] @palestinegov account went crazy. An account like this had been lurking around, doing nothing. Then, this account burst into brief life. It looked fake from the start [first, the photo, in which the facial features have somehow been sharpened, then the reference to “Palestinian Authority”, then the Tweets themselves:

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

@PalestinePres

MAHMOUD ABBAS President of the Palestinian Authority. Official Twitter Account

Ramallah

 

1.) Mahmoud Abbas @PalestinePres 27 Jun
Welcome! I open today this official Twitter account in English. Thanks, Mahmoud Abbas.

 
2.) Mahmoud Abbas @PalestinePres 27 Jun
Palestine wants peace and dialogue. PA accepts negotiations with Israel without preconditions.

 
3.) Mahmoud Abbas @PalestinePres 27 Jun
I’m ready to meet PM Netanyahu as soon as possible.

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