BBC Takes Back Control of Rogue Twitter Account (Lessons for Brands)

Yesterday I wrote about Twitter name squatting and included a recent example where a rogue person had registered the name BBC on Twitter.

Earlier today Twitter Inc handed the account to the real BBC, after a BBC staff member complained to Twitter Inc. It’s been cleared of all previous tweets and all 7,684 followers.

It’s now impossible to follow the original links and see what happened. So here are some screenshots to illustrate my point about the importance of brand control. All were taken on 28th January 2009 just after 5PM.

Message to fake BBC Twitter account

The screenshot above shows an @ message sent to the BBC Twitter account.

Reply from fake BBC Twitter account

The user @sputnik101 was surprised to see this reply from the BBC Twitter account. Like many people, including me, he was unaware that the BBC did not have control over the account. In that sense, like many others, he’d be duped into thinking he was following the real BBC. It’s generally expected that large corporations will protect their trademarks and copyrights to prevent this happening.

First available tweet from fake BBC Twitter account

I tried to see how long the BBC account had been in third party control. Above is the earliest tweet I found – from 9th October 2008.

Some replies to fake BBC Twitter account

As far as I could see the message to @sputnik101 was the only @ reply from the impostor posing as the BBC. But many other people sent @ messages to the account about many different topics. You can see just one page of search results above.

We don’t know if the rogue posing as the BBC sent any private direct messages to any of his or her thousands of followers, in the four months he or she had control over the account. It would have been possible.

BBC take control of Twitter account

Today the real BBC have control. So do head over and read what they’re posting from the new look, genuine @bbc. If you’re on Twitter you can follow them too.

This BBC story is an excellent example of the need to control your brand name on Twitter. If someone has your brand name, particularly if it’s a trademark, you should complain to Twitter Inc by sending a message to @crystal in user support.

If your name or brand name is still available, then register a Twitter account today to prevent somebody else taking it.

It’s also worth using to check the availability of your name on a variety of other popular sites.

At Native our purpose is to advise companies on good use of online and social media. This is advice we give to all our clients. As such, the BBC story is given here purely as an illustrative example. I’m not going to labour this point – there are many other examples of Twitter squatting but I won’t be attempting to catalogue them all.

I do believe that Twitter squatting could lead to examples of phishing and other nastiness if companies are lax about this. Unfortunately the onus is largely on them to monitor this. (If you’re concerned about this or you want more information, call us.)

In this example, on the surface it would appear that the rogue was attempting to provide a useful service – by pulling in the legitimate RSS feed from BBC News. But it would be easy to do this for other purposes – including phishing – to give an appearance of authenticity to an account. The legitimate feed could easily be combined with a feed from elsewhere (using an RSS aggregation service such as Yahoo Pipes).


  1. Amazing! For 3 months @bbc was not under the BBC’s control.

    Amazing that (we assume) it wasn’t used it to spread false financial info, news or views to seven and a half thousand people and huge network.

    Wonder who was behind it – will the other @bbc please stand up?

    Did anyone get any DM’s from @bbc?

  2. This is very relevant to a post I just wrote on my blog. I have been “brandjacking” Burger King on Twitter for the last couple months. Here’s some things I learned.

  3. My company’s name had been squatted for a couple months, until we discovered it. The account was not active, and was not used in any malicious ways. It took my colleague a lot of effort to try to get some information, but Twitter didn’t respond until our IP lawyer send some “language” their way.

  4. I bought it on Ebay for $80!!


  1. […] the links here no longer work because the real BBC have taken control of the rogue Twitter account. Read this post for screenshots and updated info. […]

  2. […] As you’ll notice from the comment below – the BBC now have taken control of the ‘BBC’ username. It’s great to see the BBC and Twitter acting quickly to resolve this issue. Let this be a lesson to other businesses and organisations – ‘own’ your brands on social networks or there may be trouble ahead. Native have screenshots from the rogue account before it was shut down here. […]

  3. […] Screenshots and more details are also at Native […]

  4. […] Screenshots and more details are also at Native […]