The Dawkins Delusion

On sibling site I talk tech, which often includes warning people about spams and scams and, of course phishing. So, it is with some embarrassment that I confess to being slightly caught off guard by a new twitter follower with the handle @richard_dawkins. He followed me first, a fact revealed by the excellent Topify service which emails you new followers and lets you reply to that email to follow them back.

It was the weekend, I was busily adding science twitter types to my scientwist list and without double checking added what turns out to be a fake Richard Dawkins to the list (now removed, of course). Actually, the tweets from the fake Dicky, look quite interesting but the bio points to a web page that is simply an Amazon associate frontpage selling his various books so that the fraudster makes a few pennies from each sale.

It was pharma consultant Sally Church (aka @MaverickNY) who planted the first seed of doubt, with the simple query: “Is that the real Dawkins or a fake/bot?” Joerg Heber and KEJames confirmed Sally’s suspicions. @ayasawada suggested the first few tweets were “too good to be true.” And, in response to my exposing the delusion, @dnotice asked simply, is he god?

Joerg even pointed to a discussion on the official Dawkins site that emphasises that he hadn’t even heard of Twitter until the first fake Dawkins crawled out from under a stone. He points out that even the @THE_REAL_DAWKINS is not the real Dawkins, although confesses he was taken in for a moment too. @mstuhmer pointed out that he’s actually a flying spaghetti monster, now I’m not sure whether he was referring to Dawkins or the fake Dawkins, or simply responding to the tweet by @dnotice.

Ironically, I’ve spoken to Dawkins once or twice and should have been more suspicious of a tweep claiming to be from him. In my defence, I did send a direct message (DM) to the faker with a query the answer to which only the good Professor would know (re a book we co-wrote many years ago). Needless, to say there has been no reply.

So, apologies to anyone on twitter who chose to follow the fake Dicky D after my mentioning him in a tweet.

If Twitter has plans to charge corporates and perhaps celebs for the privilege of using its services, then they are going to have to begin verifying users so that fakers cannot cybersquat twitter IDs. Or, am I being deluded in thinking that could be possible.