Opinionista Theresa Mallinson 3 November 2010

Julius Malema vs the many-headed Twitter Hydra


Cretation? WTF?! Although, it’s fair enough to say that anyone who doesn’t understand Twitter is pretty much from the Cretaceous Era.

Good old Malema, he’s never shy to provide his friend Shivambu with an excuse to indulge in his favourite past-time – free flow typing. Shivambu called the fake Twitter account holders “computer hackers”, and said that the Youth League would “call for the closer of twitter if its administrators are not able to administer reports for violation of basic human rights and integrity”. The press release ended with a very stern warning: “Those who are hacking systems and impersonating the ANC YL leadership should immediately stop doing so because the laws of this country will come very hard on them.”

What laws exactly would those be? We’ve already got enough to worry about with the proposed Protection of Information Bill and the media appeals tribunal; if you’re planning on creating “Measures for Dealing with Bloody Agents who Impersonate Julius Malema Act of 2010”, please just let us know in straight language.

Despite the ridicule the press statement received on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, Shivambu maintained that issuing it had been a worthwhile strategy. “It was a call on those things to be closed down; they’re going to be closed down very soon,” he told The Daily Maverick. When asked how the Youth League intended to proceed with having Twitter shut down, he said: “We’ll go to the relevant authorities, we’ll go to the police; we’ll do everything to make sure that thing is managed properly.”

Shame, Shivambu’s probably just a little bit jealous – at the last check there were only two people on Twitter “impersonating” him, but a whopping 12 fake Julius Malema accounts. Of course, that’s the first thing I did when when I’d picked myself up off the floor after reading the press release: go and find all of these fake accounts that I’d not bothered to follow before. Only one of them, @Julius_S_Malema has anything like a significant number of followers, 12,803 at the last count. Before the Youth League’s press statement, as a rough estimate, fewer than 15,000 people knew or cared about the fake Julius accounts. That number is rising as I type. Basically, what Malema’s done, is focused a whole lot more attention on the people taking the piss out of him, while at the same time pissing off the entire South African Twitter community.

Here’s the story, Julius – no one is trying to impersonate you, well not in the sense of genuine identity theft, anyhow. It’s called satire (although that term may not have made it into the Pedi dictionary). But, to be honest, none of the “impersonators” are all that good anyway. You send yourself up so much better than the bloody agents ever could. DM

Read more: The ANC Youth League press release that got people all a-twitter.


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