Faking a tweet? It can be done in seconds.

Posted at 11:27 PM, Apr 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-29 23:27:24-04

NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) – Since logging its first characters on March 21, 2006, Twitter has produced billions of tweets.  Facts, pontifications and images all blasted out in 140 characters or less.  From floating on the Hudson to floating in space, tweets have been generated nearly everywhere. Capturing fame as well as shame.

Can you imagine hijacking a twitter handle and creating tweets that appear to be from President Obama, the FBI, New York City’s Department of Education or even PIX 11 News? The website lets you do just that–allowing users to create tweets from any handle on twitter.  Typing whatever fabrication desired in 140 characters or less–it’s all done in seconds.

When complete it provides a snapshot that shows time of the tweet, retweets, favorites, even some of the alleged followers of the handle.  Finally, with one click it can get posted onto the real twitter under the cover of “check out what this twitter user just said.”  During one of our creative sessions we decided to have President Obama post that he watches PIX11News all the time.

If you’re wondering, the site letmetweetthatforyou was not developed in Silicon Valley, Austin, or an Ivy League campus.  In fact, it was created in Long Island City by 26-year-old Ryder Ripps and 30-year-old Jules LaPlace.  The duo developed the concept with a friend because they wanted to create something fun.

“Faking a tweet would be really powerful.  So we were like ok that is funny and cool and so we came up with the idea and designed the site and put it out there?” Ripps said.

When asked if they’re making fake tweets? Ripps quickly responds, “No you’re making fake tweets.”

Justin Cappos is a systems security expert who got his start cracking codes and security on a Commodore 64 at the age of 7.  He now has a doctorate and teaches at NYU Poly.  His initial reaction to letmetweetthatforyouThis is actually a fairly simple thing for the people who built this site to go and construct.”

Yet simplicity necessarily doesn’t translate to viability,  “This seems like it could be used in a prank way that is, you know, maybe benign but could also be used in a fairly malicious way,” Cappos said.

“It provides the vehicle from which to steal the identity of twitter users,” weighed in Fernando Pinguelo, Chair of the Cyber Security and Protection Group for the law firm Scarinci-Hollenbeck.

Controversial as letmetweetthatforyou is, the site does skirt policy issues. When it comes to the compelling debate of right to free speech vs. right to privacy, “Those competing issues are often at odds with each other. As long as the free speech doesn’t violate any particular laws, a user would be safe in that regard,” Pinguelo says.

What about twitter?  PIX11 News did reach out to it’s founders via the real twitter to gauge their reaction. They did not respond to our inquiry.

When asked why twitter can’t do more to protect users if sites like YouTube ban nudity? Cappos says, “They can, they just have to get into the business of going and looking and policing and trying to see what people are doing.”

That is also a business that costs money and time.

The act of faking a tweet is fascinating yet terrifying. It can cause headaches for a famous user or organization to prove that the tweet never actually existed.  Yet Ripps says that what makes their site dangerous are the people who don’t question the final product, “In the wrong hands it’s not dangerous.  In the wrong minds, the percept, if people look at things and don’t question them, then they take everything for value. That’s the danger.”