A slightly forensic Twitter example – in which a key tweet is now unavailable

Image by Pavlofox on Pixabay:

Warning: this post contains antisemitic imagery / phrases. These are used to illustrate a discussion about whether someone replying positively to a tweet (alleged to contain an antisemitic image) was being intentionally or unwittingly antisemitic.

I was reluctant to publish this post on an unpleasant topic but it seems that the people involved have been being reported to various bodies, likely unfairly, and a great deal of on-Twitter commentary about the case is flat-out wrong.

My post focuses largely on the Twitter-technical side of things. If you spot any mistakes in my assumptions or thinking, or can see that I’ve missed an important piece of evidence that changes things, please let me know, thanks – @JoBrodie.

In early February 2019 I spotted that my “Remember Twitter screenshots can be faked” post was doing the rounds*, in response to a tweet sent by Wes Streeting MP who had commented on a screenshot.

The question, greatly contested on Twitter, is whether someone called Annie (whose June 2018 tweet had been included in the screenshot, saying “Good one Angela“) was replying favourably (perceived as ‘endorsing’) to a problematic tweet from someone called Angela, or if Wes had been sent and then shared a faked^ screenshot.

It is possible that more than one faked screenshot has been sent to people in order to give the impression that Annie or others were endorsing a problematic tweet, when she may have replied to an innocent one. It is also possible that Annie endorsed a problematic tweet in error, not spotting its problematic nature. And it is possible that Annie endorsed a problematic tweet. (‘Possible’ in a vaguely technical sense not taking into account how likely someone might be to respond in a particular way to a particular tweet).

From the information I’ve found I think Annie probably replied favourably to a problematic tweet, not necessarily intentionally ‘endorsing’ it though. She and many others maintain that it wasn’t intentional. It’s quite difficult to clearly distinguish among these three options, though other circumstantial evidence / balance of probabilities etc may come into play.

Table of contents

  1. Did Annie send a tweet with those words?
  2. Was her tweet sent in reply to a tweet from Angela?
  3. What was the thread in which the tweets appear?
  4. Is it possible to fake screenshots?
  5. Red herrings and faked screenshots
  6. Is it possible to be unaware that a trope is antisemitic?
  7. Doxxing claims
  8. How I heard about this case.

1. Did Annie send a tweet with those words?

Yes. Regardless of what tweet was being replied to Annie sent the response “Good one Angela” to someone named Angela at 11.09pm on 13 June 2018.

Original reply tweet

My avatar appears at the bottom of the screen on the left as I’m logged in as me.

2. Was her tweet sent in reply to a tweet from Angela?

Yes. Clicking in the bit saying “Tweet your reply” on the original tweet on Twitter brings up an enlarged reply box with the names of people to whom you’d be replying. As you’d be replying to Annie’s tweet her name appears first. Second in the list is Angela. This strongly indicates that Annie’s tweet had been sent in reply to Angela.

Clicking in the reply to bit uncovers the person or people to whom it was sent

There’s my avatar again on the bottom left – I’m logged in as me and clicked the reply button. If someone else was logged in they’d see their own picture.

Further confirmation can be found from Dabr (a simplified Twitter app) – here’s the same tweet showing clearly that it was sent in reply to Angela (Dabr includes all participants in a reply-tweet). It also indicates that Angela’s tweet was sent to someone called Sarah, potentially placing the tweets in a thread [see (3)].

Dabr shows to whom a tweet is sent and the app used to send it

Here’s the original tweet on Dabr (you’d need to log in to be able to see it though).

(i) A note on the timing of tweets – Dabr marks the tweets at 22:09, one hour behind the 11:09 PM timestamp on Twitter. Given that the tweet was sent in June I suspect this is just to do with the way both apps handle GMT / BST. It’s certainly the same tweet, as both URLs have the same tweet ID of 1007022280143237121.

Above a typical tweet URL and below the same tweet URL shown on Dabr

(ii) A note on ‘in reply to’ – the reply-thread makes it clear that it was a tweet sent in response, and not a spontaneous tweet to Angela. However in both cases the format of the tweet would be largely the same. What’s missing here is the phrase “in reply to” which appears on all replies on Twitter but not on spontaneous tweets sent to someone. The likely reason it is missing is probably becasuse Angela’s account is now protected.

3. What was the thread in which the tweets appear?

It appears to be the one below. Someone called Sarah sent a tweet about a band, Angela replied to it and Annie replied to that. As Angela’s account is locked and her tweets are no longer visible the current version of that Twitter thread now looks like this, giving the mistaken impression that Annie has replied directly to Sarah‘s tweet.

This may have been the likely sequence of tweets

  1. Sarah sent the tweet about the band
  2. Angela replied to it (with a now-missing tweet)
  3. Annie replied to Angela.

What we lack is screenshot proof of the three tweets in context.

This tweet shows the screenshot below (of the first and third tweet) with some more context.

Tweet thread showing C replying to A with Tweet B in the middle now missing

Twitter has since temporarily restricted Annie’s account meaning that her tweets are mostly hidden from search results, so now it would be even harder to re-run these searches, so I’m glad I did it in February.

4. Is it possible to fake screenshots?

Yes, very much so, it’s extremely easy. Here’s one to illustrate that point – however it does not seem that the tweeted screenshot sent by Wes Streeting was necessarily faked, if we look at other circumstantial evidence below.

Note that it is certainly technically possible that Wes was sent a doctored screenshot which he then shared in good faith, and that others (eg David, below) have also been sent faked screenshots of tweets which they’ve also shared. It does not seem particularly likely though.

David’s tweet (below), sent two days before the thread above, shows a different post from Angela with the same imagery.

David's tweet shows a similar post from Angela from two days earlier

After publishing this post I sent the link to someone that I’d previously discussed this with and he feels that it’s not the chain of tweets in the thread that’s at issue but the photoshopping of the image shared by Wes. Unfortunately I’m unable to investigate this myself (not a Photoshop expert) and have asked for further info – click on the tweet to see our discussion.

^ 5. Red herrings and faked screenshots

I was surprised (and a bit disappointed) that so many respondents satisfied themselves with a simplistic explanation saying that because it’s possible to find unadorned copies of the image on the web Wes (or whoever sent him the screenshot) must have tinkered with the image. That’s a bit silly.

All of these can be true

(a) a reasonably inoffensive image exists
(b) more offensive variations of this image exist
(c) a tweet was sent containing the inoffensive image, but later photoshopped for some mischief
(d) a tweet was sent already containing an offensive image, and a screenshot was taken of it
(e) someone interacting with a (d) tweet missed its offensive nature

Clearly a version of the ‘raw’ image (a) appears to have been amended (b) at some point as the original has neither the star nor the ring. I suppose it cannot be known for certain which version (c or d) was tweeted out by Angela as the original tweet is no longer available (either because her account is locked or because the tweet was deleted), but…

…an entirely separate screenshot posted by David (in (4)) provides fairly strong circumstantial evidence that Wes’ screenshot was also correct (d). Note though that it does not automatically follow that anyone endorsing such a tweet either spotted or understood the imagery (e).

6. Is it possible to be unaware that a trope is antisemitic?

Yep. Here’s me learning about one myself.

In Annie’s defence she is a very high-volume tweeter with over 225,000 tweets (this includes tweets and RTs) sent since May 2010 (about 70 tweets a day). I think of myself as pretty chatty on Twitter but have sent ‘only’ 116,000 since June 2008 (about 30 tweets a day). With her fast-pace Twitter exchanges it’s entirely believable that she might have missed the nuance of a piece of imagery when responding.

7. Doxxing claims

A separate discussion on Twitter was about whether Wes had published Annie’s personal information (doxxing) in sharing her real name and whether this breaks Twitter’s rules or those of the Labour Party. I think I’d describe what Wes had done as having ‘surfaced’ information that was publicly available elsewhere, but which hadn’t been explicitly shared on Twitter before. In Annie’s own Twitter account she uses her real initials – that doesn’t in itself give her name away but if you come across her name elsewhere it would be confirming evidence.

I don’t think Wes can reasonably be said to have doxxed her, given the ease with which her info can be found (as she has also used the same account name for other services you can find and confirm her info quite easily), however I’d agree that it was a bit ‘ungallant’ of him to have done so as it brought her a lot of unwanted and unpleasant attention (and to him too). It does not appear to break Twitter’s rules about sharing personal information (I don’t know about the Labour Party’s own rules) and I don’t believe it’s illegal, but it may well be ‘GDPR-problematic’.

Edit: 7 March – in fact if you type Annie’s account name into a search on Twitter it will show you a separate account of hers which also uses her real name, that account is also followed by someone who shares the same family name.

This blog post suggests that a police investigation is underway but I don’t know if that’s definitely the case. Lots of people apparently tweeted that they were reporting Wes for faked images and doxxing – but that in itself doesn’t prove that they did of course. Here, lots of people discuss the blog post on Twitter.

* 8. How I heard about this case.

I regularly run a Twitter search for this blog. Its most-shared post, at the time of writing, is “Hate seeing other people’s likes on Twitter? Some options to try” which looks at the options to avoid seeing “Your friend X liked Y’s tweet”. When people share my post they often include additional solutions that they’ve found out, with which I then update the post (I say as much in that post). Searching Twitter for howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com brings up any public tweet containing a link to this blog.




How to know if the link you’re sharing on Twitter will produce an in-tweet image preview

tl;dr – check if the link you’re sharing can produce an inline image preview by running it though Twitter’s Card Validator. If it doesn’t you can cheat by manually uploading or pasting in an image.

The order and type of links in your tweet can affect things: pasting in a link to a tweet always displays that tweet regardless of other links involved or their order but for any two (or more) non-tweet links included in your tweet the last one is displayed. You can prevent a link from displaying an image by converting it to an is.gd shortened link (not bitly though), or override by adding an image to the tweet.

Instagram is a law unto itself and linking your Twitter & Instagram won’t display your Insta posts, you need a third party app for that.

In my previous post, How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed, I played around with the order (in a tweet) of links that either do or don’t produce an inline image preview.

This is what an inline image looks like.

Screenshot 2019-02-17 08.59.42

The picture below the text appears automatically after I shared a link (the link itself becomes hidden and is replaced with the image) to a post on this blog about Instagram images. Instagram doesn’t support Twitter cards so letting Instagram autopost your Insta posts to Twitter doesn’t work in terms of displaying an image, you need a third party app to do that – details in that post I’ve just linked to.

  1. For an inline image to appear the site being linked to must have Twitter cards set up correctly [technical info for web developers].
  2. You can check if any given link will work by plugging it into Twitter’s Card Validator (note that the S in HTTPmay be important so try that first if you’ve copied over an HTTP address).
  3. If (2) doesn’t work and you aren’t able to set up (1) you can always cheat by just uploading an image or pasting in a screenshot of the image you’d like to appear. The link you share won’t disappear (it’ll show up as a clickable link) but hardly anyone will notice this workaround 🙂

If you include links to two or more posts that have Twitter cards working then the last one mentioned in your tweet will have its image preview shown. If you include a Twitter-card link alongside a non-card link then the card link will always show its image and the order of the links doesn’t matter. For an enjoyably pedantic (YMMV) examination of the effect of the order of links have a look at my earlier post: How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed.

Note that if you include in your tweet a link to another tweet (even if included with a link that would normally produce an inline image) it seems that the link to the tweet will always take precedence and show up, regardless of the order you write them in your tweet. In the example below (using my testing account) I’ve reversed the order of two links, one to a post on this blog about getting rid of ‘your friend liked this tweet‘ notifications, the other to a tweet of mine about a Wikipedia page I created.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.25.19

How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed

tl;dr – the last link in a tweet is the one that will show up with a media preview if that link has Twitter cards associated with it (eg almost all news sites).

If two links are tweeted but one has cards and the other doesn’t then the order doesn’t matter, the cards link always shows up.

If a tweet includes the link to another tweet then the tweet will always appear (it will look the same as how a quote RT looks) because a linked tweet will override any other link that has media preview capability / Twitter cards. (If two tweet links are shared then the last one shows up)

If you want to override any of this and control what appears in the media preview you can just upload or paste in an image.

Some tweets that have a link included will display the text of the tweet and the text of the link – the whole tweet is just text, with the link in a different colour (often blue, but different profile colours chosen can mean they’ll show in a different colour if you’re on their profile).

This is my test account ‘FriendlyBlocker‘ (set up to test Twitter’s block functions) publishing a tweet which contains only a link to a Wikipedia article I wrote on the nonsense that is CEASE therapy – the link shows up as a link.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.03.15
Tweet with a Wikipedia link in it

In a different tweet below I’ve shared a link to a BBC article, and nothing else. The link is nowhere to be seen in the ‘bit where the text would go’. Instead there’s just a clickable picture that takes you to the article. This is because the BBC site has set up Twitter cards so that the shared link automatically pulls the image from the BBC’s website and displays it as a media preview. The link shows up as a picture.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.05.25
Tweet with a BBC link in it


I’ve occasionally shared more than one link in a tweet and expected one of them to show up as a picture and been a bit surprised when the other one has. I thought I’d investigate what role the order of the links might play, and different types of links. Here are the results of my study into this phenomenon 😉

  1. If one of the links is associated with Twitter Cards and the other one isn’t then the order dosn’t matter at all, the cards one will always be displayed as the image. You can always override this by uploading an image to your tweet, then both links will show as links. (You can upload an image or just Ctrl+V to paste one in).

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.13.43
    Two tweets both containing the same two links to Wikipedia article and to this blog. As WordPress blogs have Twitter cards and Wikipedia seems not to, the WP blog post is always displayed as an image and not just as a link.
  2. Where two or more links each having Twitter cards associated with them then the order does matter. From my mildly extensive testing it seems that LAST is where to put the one you want to appear as the image.

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.16.52
    Two tweets with two links, with the order of the links reversed. Both links have Twitter cards associated with them and in both cases the second link posted is the one that shows up as an image.
  3. It looks like the link of another tweet included in a tweet (as opposed to retweeting) will override any other link that has a Twitter card.
    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.25.19
    Two tweets, two links (one of them to another tweet) showing that the order makes no difference and the Twitter card for the tweet is always diplayed.

    Again this could be overridden by including a separate image if you don’t want the text of the tweet to show up and do want the image to show up of the link.

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.30.52
    Adding an image overrides the Twitter cards and makes the order of the links irrelevant.

    Note that quote tweeting the tweet and adding a link also doesn’t work, the tweet will override whatever link is added in the quote part.

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.33.26
    A quote RT of a tweet, with a link to this blog (which has Twitter cards associated with it) added. The tweet overrides and shows up in the media area.
  4. Just to demonstrate that it’s the LAST position for the link to show up as the image in the media area (where all links have cards associated with them, and none of them is a tweet URL…) here are three links with the order varied, in all cases the link placed last is the one that shows up as the picture.If one of the links is a tweet that’ll override everything else and always show up, regardless of the order.

    This is what I wrote for the three tweets, from top to bottom.

    Link B (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47242477
    Link C (Buzzfeed) https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/cleaning-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius
    Link A (blog) https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/hate-seeing-other-peoples-likes-on-twitter-some-options-to-try/

    Link A (blog) https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/hate-seeing-other-peoples-likes-on-twitter-some-options-to-try/
    Link C (Buzzfeed) https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/cleaning-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius
    Link B (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47242477

    Link A (blog) https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/hate-seeing-other-peoples-likes-on-twitter-some-options-to-try/
    Link B (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47242477
    Link C (Buzzfeed) https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/cleaning-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.54.37

  5. And for completists here are tweets containing two links to two other tweets, re-ordered. In both cases the last link is the one that shows up.

    Screenshot 2019-02-16 14.00.40

    The text of the URL for the tweets is shown above (made as non-clicky links to show the actual link, WordPress automatically converts tweet URLs to an embedded tweet)



If I like a Twitter post & unlike it in less than 5 seconds will the person still be notified? (Unknown / maybe)

This is my answer to the above question on Quora (question title shortened a bit for this post).

Probably not, but not definitely not – it depends. The unluckiest scenario for a mis-liked tweet would be the person having their notifications tab open, looking at it and clicking to see it update with your like which later disappears – but that’s pretty unlikely. As [anoter respondent] says it’s more likely that they’d get a notification of the like but when they click to see what it was nothing would show up.

Email notifications
Another possibility would be that the like is included in the digest email sent out to people who have notifications emailed to them, I don’t think this includes absolutely every type of interaction though and a like that is quickly unliked might not be captured, but I suppose it’s possible. (See ‘Activity related to you or your tweets’ on this page How to update your email preferences).

Web notifications
A more likely situation would be if they have Web Notifications switched on, which sends a little floating pop up to inform (or annoy) you that someone’s done something to one of your tweets. It’s possible, but not certain, that a like would be flagged up in this way but Twitter indicates that it doesn’t alert you to every single action performed on your tweets so it may decide a like can be ignored, more info at How to enable web and browser notifications

I’ve temporarily switched on web notifications to take this screen shot to illustrate that you can opt in to receive likes (but I don’t know if it reports every like). So someone might be looking in another tab and still be notified that you’ve liked their tweet…

By the way the options are ‘Tailored for you’ or ‘By anyone’ so I suppose the anyone one is more likely to flag up your brief like.


Changing your name on Twitter doesn’t stop people from finding you

Summary – each Twitter account has one Twitter ID. Changing the screen name does not change the ID. Tweets are sent to the ID, threaded conversations help to find new name.

By @JoBrodie

If you change your @-name on Twitter people will still be able to find you, from your original @-name. This is because your Twitter ID stays the same regardless of what your screen name says so any message sent from or to your account will immediately inherit your new name. It’s easy for someone to look at the tweets sent to you and find your new screen name, so a name change does not work as a stealth move on Twitter.

Deleting all of your own messages won’t help (and you can’t delete the ones sent to you anyway).

To find your current screen name someone could search for a tweet sent to your old name, click on it to bring up the thread and it will now display your current name in the bit where it says who it’s sent in reply to. This only works for a tweet sent to you (as first recipient) as opposed to one where your name is mentioned later in the tweet.

An example of a search would be from:personA @oldname where personA is someone who’s definitely sent a tweet to an account under its previous name and @oldname is the old screen name. (NB using to:oldname won’t work as Twitter now automatically updates the “to” bit. I found a tweet I’d sent in 2009 to “oldname” and it now says I sent it to “newname” but the old name appears as text in the tweet).

If you want to be unfindable you’d need a different account I’m afraid, I don’t think there’s a way around this.

At some point I expect the change Twitter’s made to the way in which names now don’t quite show up in replies (no longer included as part of the text or character count) may mean that people will better be able to hide themselves in future against such searching, but possibly not.

This is adapted from an answer I wrote on Quora. It updates an old 2014 post of the same name that I wrote on my other blog.



Remember Twitter screenshots can be faked

Recently on Twitter there was an example of a journalist being called out for having sent an unpleasant tweet to someone. It soon became clear that they hadn’t sent it – it was a fabrication sent from a very new account which shortly afterwards disappeared entirely. It was a smear attempt.

There was some discussion about the increase in faked screenshots (they’ve always been around but mostly used in a jokey way until recently) and also about the ways in which screenshots can be manipulated.

Here are some suggested possibilities, although all are functional methods they’re also all speculative as we’ve no idea how the person created the malicious tweet.

Although this post does give information about how to fake tweets or how to fake screenshots the intention isn’t to encourage anyone to do this but to make people more aware of the possibility and to treat screenshotted tweets with some caution, and not to assume the worst. You might also like my post on Twitter forensics.

1. Combining images
A fake account could send a genuine tweet and the screenshot of its text could be overlaid on the area occupied by a real tweet from the ‘target’ account. The fake tweet might then be deleted to reduce the chance of it being discovered and raising suspicion.

2. Image / text manipulation
Things like Photoshop / Word / PowerPoint could be used to generate new text that matches the appearance of a tweet (type / font size etc) and be used to create a fake tweet from scratch.

3. Editing the appearance of the tweet on-screen, then taking a screenshot of that
I remember seeing a tweet warning about this being a possibility but couldn’t remember what it said so I asked Twitter and Sean Ellis confirmed that this was possible, so I tried this out myself on Firefox and it’s quite easy to do (I assume it’s more or less the same for other browsers but haven’t checked).

With a tweet open on the browser so that its URL is visible in the address bar you can open the Inspector panel (Command+Alt/Option+i on a Mac) and re-write the tweet that appears in front of you. It won’t change the actual real published tweet, just what’s on your screen. But you can screenshot it and it looks real.

Search in the Inspector window for a phrase that appears within your tweet’s text. I found five examples of it but only the one that referenced TweetTextSize was the one that let me edit it.

a) The actual tweet (below)

b) Screenshot of the real tweet (below)

Screenshot 2018-08-30 20.12.09

c) View of the tweet online with Inspector window open. I’ve searched for the word discoveries which appears towards the end of the tweet (you might need to search for a word that appears earlier if the text is truncated – there were 3 instances of discoveries but 5 of bowels!)

Note the smaller text below the tweet where I’ve written different text, it says “You can write anything in here and when I click back in the tweet it will show up there too. This is a fake tweet screenshot made for illustrative purposes.”

Screenshot 2018-08-30 20.10.10

d) Screenshot of the fake tweet (below)

Screenshot 2018-08-30 20.10.29

Sean also pointed out that you could probably download a local copy of any web page, manipulate the underlying HTML code in notepad and reload a local copy and take a screenshot. There seem to be a lot of ways of cheating!

4. Faking a ‘deleted tweet’
If you add extra numbers to the end of a tweet’s URL / link you are effectively creating a tweet that has never been published. When pressing enter, to open the tweet, Twitter will return a ‘page not found’ error page. It looks as if the person has deleted the tweet but it never existed.

Here’s an example I created for myself using two numbers repeated to make it clear what I did.


It looks like this on the page.

Screenshot 2018-08-29 23.48.59

Featured image from Pixabay

Troubleshooting Twitter: how to find answers to common questions

Screenshot 2018-06-28 00.18.42

I see a lot of the same queries about Twitter crop up frequently on the #TwitterHelp hashtag, most of which have already been answered on Twitter’s own help site.

For example how to change your city for Twitter trends | uploading a video | finding out why your tweets are missing, or aren’t showing in search | how to unlock or recover a suspended account (where this is possible) … and so on

If you’re looking for an answer to a particular Twitter-related query or are trying to troubleshoot something then this post should point you in some helpful directions.

1. Searching on Google and other search engines
If I know a solution or have some suggestions I’ll try and answer. If I need to check something first I usually type in some relevant search terms, the word Twitter and occasionally site:help.twitter.com into my preferred search engine (it’s Google). That last one searches for mentions of whatever I’m trying to find in Twitter’s help files. If I omit that then the search will cover any website (including this one) as lots of people write ‘how to’ blog posts about Twitter.

2. Searching on Twitter itself
There’s a high chance that someone else will have asked / answered your query. If you can’t log in for any reason you can still search at https://twitter.com/search-home or https://twitter.com/search-advanced. The #TwitterHelp hashtag might help too.

3. Searching Quora
You can visit Quora itself and search there or just add Quora to search engine searches, for example https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=site:quora.com+twitter+video

4. For more technical stuff look at Twitter developers’ forums
https://developer.twitter.com/, https://developer.twitter.com/en/community and https://twittercommunity.com/

5. All the other pages you can play with on Twitter

Found by searching for site:*.twitter.com on Google