Twittergate; Butch gets his twavatar back


I am going to write this post in pure English and avoid arrobas and abbreviations and other shortened forms of modern communication, where possible.

About a week ago, as he looked into the options for getting the governor on, the state's applications manager, Bill Farnsworth, discovered that there was already a "ButchOtter" using the popular instant message sharing service.

According to Teresa Luna, Chief of Staff at the Idaho Department of Administration, Farnsworth alerted Twitter through an online form that the ButchOtter user may be violating the site's prohibition on impersonation.

A Wednesday morning response from Twitter Support that Luna supplied to citydesk, clarified that impersonation is against that policy, but parody is not:
Impersonation is against our terms of service unless it's parody. The standard for defining parody is, "Would a reasonable person be aware that it's a joke." This means that accounts that clearly state they are "fake" in the URL or bio are allowed to exist, as long as it is clear to the public that the account is not the "real" person.
But by midday Thursday, ButchOtter, who is actually Albion City Councilor L. Shane Carlson, a registered Republican, realized that his Otter persona on Twitter had been shut down and replaced with a feed from the actual Governor's Office.

"@ButchOtter has been terminated, and been replaced in a coup d'etat by the actual Butch Otter. WTF?" Carlson sent over his personal Twitter feed at 12:40 yesterday.

Carlson tells citydesk that he was just trying to create some dialogue and that his posts were clearly in the spirit of parody, including the icon, or Twavatar, in the nascent dialect of the Twitterspere, of an upright AK-47 that he used.

"Satire and parody are commonly the last recourse," Carlson said. "It’s kind of a punk move on their [Twitter's] part to just hand it over to him without any discourse with me."

Carlson said that he was attempting to show people that there are other ways of looking at politics that are not often considered in Idaho because it is largely a one-party state.

The Idaho Department of Administration, which houses the state's Chief Information Officer, is working on beefing up the state's use of new forms of technology.

“We have been working with the Governor’s Office for couple of months on new techonolgy that’s out there to get messages out there whether it’s Facebook or Twitter,” said Luna, a non-Twitter user herself.

The state has refurbished its Web site and several state agencies are using Twitter and other social media services to reach out to the public. We wrote about this phenomenon recently in the Boise Weekly.

As the state sought to shut down the fake ButchOtter account yesterday, the Attorney General's Office also responded to an anonymous tip that an employee at the State Tax Commission was using state computers and time to impersonate the governor on Twitter, said Bob Cooper, a spokesman for the AG's Office.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Benjamin (not the real Brian Benjamin), who specializes in personnel law, questioned the employee yesterday at his office and asked if he was fake ButchOtter. The man, whom citydesk has not been able to speak with and is thus not naming, happens to work with Carlson at another job. The man put Benjamin on the phone with Carlson, who took the heat for pretending to be the governor on Twitter, which according to Cooper, put the matter to rest.

Other Twitter users claim to have been approached by Benjamin or someone for the AG's office, but we could not confirm any other investigations.

I am going to blog this and then Twitter it and then link to it from my Facebook page and then start my weekend.