How to check whether you’re looking at a fake tweet

If you see a screen capture of a tweet, you should immediately suspect its legitimacy. Here’s how to check if it’s fake or real.

This is a real problem. A friend of mine, for example, posted this capture of a purported Trump tweet on her Facebook page (I added the orange “Fake” to the screen capture so it won’t spread any further):

I immediately became suspicious. While it includes hallmarks of the Trump Twitter style — the many exclamation points, the misspelling of Owens’ first name as Candice, not Candace, and the use of “witch” instead of “which” — I didn’t think Trump would use “her own kind” in this way.

There are any number of fake tweet generators online, so a screen capture like this is easy to create. But how can you check?

How to check a tweet for authenticity

The simplest check, which does not even require you to log into Twitter, is to check the tweeter’s timeline. In this case, just type the text below into your browser:

twitter.com/realdonaldtrump

(You can replace “realdonaldtrump” with any Twitter handle. For example, to see all my tweets, enter “twitter.com/jbernoff).

The tweets are listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top. Scroll down until you’re looking a the tweets for the date and time indicated on the screen capture, in this case 3:17am on June 12. Here’s what Trump’s Twitter timeline looks like around that date:

There are no tweets at all on June 12, only on the day before and the day after. Therefore, the tweet is fake.

Another friend of mine posted this tweet, purported to be from Mary Trump, Trump’s niece, who has a book coming out:

Is this real? We can’t tell what Mary Trump’s Twitter handle is from this screen capture. Once again, even if you’re not logged in to Twitter, you can go to the search box and search for Mary Trump:

Then click on “People” to see who’s listed.

In this case, there’s no one who seems to be the actual Mary Trump in the list. She’d probably be the top result if she had an account. And the account would likely be verified with a blue checkmark, which none of these accounts have.

So where did this tweet come from? You can type in the unusual phrase “bowels operate omnidirectionally”, in quotes, into the same search box, being sure to switch back from “People” to “Top.” Now we find the actual tweet, which is from an account called “unRealMaryTrump.”

There is no blue checkmark. And if you click on the name or handle of the account, you see the bio, and sure enough, this is a parody account.

How to check historical tweets

These methods work well for tweets that happened recently. But one way people troll Trump (and others) is to post tweets from a long time ago, to show he was a hypocrite. How do you check a tweet that purports to be from before Trump’s timeline was a national obsession?

Here’s one, widely shared, that was supposedly tweeted on February 25, 2015.

To check a historical tweet, you obviously can’t just go into Trump’s timeline and scroll all the way back to 2015. Instead, you can use Twitter’s advanced search. To use advanced search, you need to be logged into Twitter. (If you don’t have a Twitter account, it’s easy to create one. You can even make it private and follow no one, and then no one will even know you are there.)

Go to the advanced search by typing this into your browser:

https://twitter.com/search-advanced

In advanced search, you can enter specific words, accounts, and dates. In this case, we’d scroll down and enter Trump’s account:

Then scroll down a little further and enter a range of dates.

You see all of Trump’s tweets from February 25. And the one you’re looking for isn’t there. (If you also included a phrase from the tweet in the search, like “Dow Joans,” you’d get back no results at all, because no tweets from that date by @realDonaldTrump include that phrase.)

Verdict: fake.

While you can’t search blocked or deleted tweets, that’s unlikely to be a problem

There are two reasons that you might not be able to see a tweet, even if it is (or was) real.

First, if the account has blocked you, you can’t see their tweets — assuming you are logged into Twitter. But all the searches I described in the first section of this post will still work. If Trump blocks you (thereby making you a member of a very exclusive club) you can still see his tweets at twitter.com/realdonaldtrump when not logged into Twitter, or you can create a new account and search his tweets from that account.

Second, if the account that posted the tweet has since deleted it, you won’t see it. If it is a recent and incendiary tweet by Donald Trump, though, then it will appear in many news articles, even if he later deleted it. (Trust me, they’re watching.) And if it was a historical tweet, it’s highly unlikely that he would have deleted that exact tweet from among the many thousands he made — and that even though he did, some sneaky person took a screen capture many years ago, just hoping to spring it on him at this moment.

Far more likely is that the tweet you are looking at is fake, and the person who shared it is either trying to fool you, or has been fooled by somebody else.

Bottom line: if you see a screen capture of a tweet, and you suspect it might be fake, check it before sharing. It’s not that hard. And it will save you from apologizing to everyone about being fooled.

5 responses to “How to check whether you’re looking at a fake tweet

  1. What about a tweet that you’ve screen captured, but then for what ever reason was removed? How do you then check? You note above that “No tweets were made on June 11” . . . but what if those tweets were removed or blocked. And if you are blocked by another party, those tweets won’t show up anyway. Right?

    I don’t use Twitter very often. I read but seldom post. I think it’s a waste of time, unless you’re someone in the public eye with thousands of followers. I think I might have five or six followers. So tweeting is just a stupid waste of time.

    People who tweet need to get a life.

    And somehow, somebody should secretly make Trump’s tweets invisible except to him, so nobody has to read them, but he thinks they can.

    đŸ™‚

    1. As I said, the president’s Twitter is under such scrutiny that any tweet he deletes is reported by news media.

      Regardless of your disdain for Twitter, Trump uses it as an instrument of communication, so we need to keep an eye on it. And it has revealed much about our president.

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