GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay is taking action to shut down a fake Twitter account for Bishop David Ricken.
Matthew Livingstone, the social communications director for the diocese, said Tuesday that diocesan officials are trying to get the impostor account removed from Twitter. They also are warning Twitter users about the fraudulent account, and that at least one user reported an attempt to solicit money.
“From the Diocese of Green Bay account, I will be direct tweeting each of the followers of the false account just to let them know that they are following someone that’s not the bishop and let them know what the bishop’s real account is,” Livingstone said.
Ricken’s Twitter account, @BpDavidRicken, was created in February 2013. He uses it almost daily to share uplifting messages and interact with nearly 3,000 followers.
The false account, which appears to have started during the weekend and had 40 followers as of Tuesday afternoon, has a similar username of @BpDavid_Ricken. The only difference between the handles is the underscore included between Ricken’s first and last names for the impostor account.
Livingstone credited as many as 10 followers of the diocesan Twitter account (@GreenBayDiocese) for alerting the diocese via tweets and emails Monday about the new account. The @BpDavid_Ricken account includes a photo of Ricken and a profile tag that reads “Official Twitter account for Bishop David Ricken.”
“It’s very interesting because the people in the (diocese) knew Bishop Ricken’s voice in social media, and they knew it wasn’t him and knew something was suspicious and were not only responsive, but they were proactive to say, ‘Hey, we don’t want this guy out there,’” Livingstone said.
The fake Ricken account has a timeline of a half-dozen messages that were posted Sunday and Monday. Livingstone said most of those posts were copied from Ricken’s official account.
“They’re trying to come close to his voice. … make it look genuine,” Livingstone said.
Ricken, who typically tweets about good news in the diocese or the Catholic church and sends out prayers, posted a warning on Twitter on Monday afternoon about the fraudulent activity.
“Friends, please know that someone is impersonating me using the [email protected]_Ricken & falsely soliciting donations. Please unfollow.”
Livingstone said the diocese reported the fake account to Twitter on Monday.
“Twitter’s already working on shutting (that account) down,” Livingstone said.
Nu Wexler, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Twitter, Inc., said in an email that the company does not comment on individual accounts.
According to Twitter’s impersonation policy, “Impersonation is a violation of Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter impersonation policy.”
Twitter reports on its website, twitter.com, that it has 320 million monthly users.
The fake Bishop David Ricken account remained on Twitter as of Tuesday afternoon but had not had a new post since Monday.
“Both (accounts) say ‘official,’ but the thing is if you look back, (the bishop) has nearly three years of established tweets, an authentic voice and interaction versus 2½ days of mimicking,” Livingstone said.
He added that the one known request for money from the impostor account was sent to a Twitter user in a private, or direct, message to that user’s account.
“It would not be normal for the bishop to send a private message,” Livingstone said. “He does direct tweets, if someone sends him a prayer request (asking) if he can pray for them. He loves connecting with people on Twitter.”
Ricken isn’t letting what Livingstone called an isolated incident to sour his interest in connecting with his followers through social media, particularly Twitter.
“He has 2,800 followers (on Twitter) that he’s connected with, and they pray for him and he prays for them,” Livingstone said. “He’s more concerned about them than one person who’s causing trouble.”
Follow Todd McMahon on Twitter: @ToddMcMahon23
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