I’ve been pulled over by the police only one time in my driving career, 16 or so years ago. I was in my Ford Aerostar; my youngest daughter was behind me in her car seat, screaming because she’d lost her toy. I was driving southbound on Interstate 405 in stop and go traffic between Bellevue and Renton, Washington, when I noticed flashing lights in my rear-view mirror.
I was mystified as to the reason I was being pulled over, but made my way to the shoulder and stopped. While the Trooper got out of his car. I twisted around to pick up my daughter’s toy and, in the process, came about halfway out of my seat. When I turned back around, I was confronted with a State Trooper standing at my window, gun drawn. Let me tell you, that’s an experience you never want to live through.
Of course, when the State Trooper saw me reaching around behind me, he had no way of knowing that I was picking up a toy; he had to assume I was reaching for a gun. For my part, it never occurred to me that reaching for a toy could be mistaken for reaching for a gun because, well, I would never draw a gun on a police officer.
I’m sure you wondering what this has to do with being Twitter-scammed, so I’ll get to the point.
Eleven days ago, I noticed a new follower on Twitter, InTheStimulus. It was an intriguing username so I clicked through to check out the profile. There were a handful of tweets there, and it looked as though the intention was to highlight examples of wasteful spending in the ARRA legislation. Looked interesting, so I tweeted:
“I recommend @InTheStimulus for all those who want to know where their hard-earned dollars are going to be spent.”
With that tweet, InTheStimulus faded from my memory until one of my Twitter friends DMd me yesterday to let me know that I’d been “featured” on the DailyKos. As it turns out, InTheStimulus was a dummy account for one of the “investigative reporters” frequenting the DailyKos and the tweets, rather than being actual examples from the ARRA legislation, were fabricated.
Of course with perfect hindsight, I can see that it was foolish to recommend InTheStimulus without investigating further than my casual once over but to be honest, just like my experience with the State Trooper, it never occurred to me that someone would deliberately post false information because, well, I would never deliberately post false information.
This is quite the story over at the DailyKos. They’re getting a real kick out of all the gullible conservatives who fell for their clever ruse. That’s not really my concern; I’ve raised 3 teenagers and I’m used to this sort of juvenile derision.
But InTheStimulus goes on to make an excellent point:
“…be careful of what you read and believe on Twitter. I think some of the leeway granted to InTheStimulus is based on the soundbite nature of the site; people can get away with no citations, which is less likely than with a conventional blog.”
So I’d actually like to congratulate InTheStimulus on an excellent social science experiment and thank him (her?) for an excellent reminder that, while my intentions may be honest, not everyone’s are.
(For those of you who may be wondering, I was pulled over for having expired license tabs; no citation resulted. I think the Trooper felt the drawn gun had been punishment enough.)
An Update from Bamos at Daily Kos:
Wow, I wasn’t expecting this to get noticed again. The InTheStimulus account doesn’t exist any more. After this diary, some conservatives noticed it and spread around the word that it was a hoax. This is a surprisingly level-headed response by one of my followers.
I did change the username, delete all the old posts, and start again with the same followers list with TheAngryRighty – personally, I’m amazed you can do something like that. I haven’t touched it in a couple weeks, though.