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.

https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/121212121212121212121212121212121212

It looks like this on the page.

Screenshot 2018-08-29 23.48.59

Featured image from Pixabay

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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

 

The “from:user” search workaround for seeing a blocker’s tweets (while still logged in) has stopped working

Updated 11 July 2018: still seems to work OK on https://dabr.eu

There are a lot of people making misleading (and occasionally illegal) health claims on Twitter. When you challenge them they often block you. This has happened to me (and many other skeptic bloggers, scientists, healthcare professionals etc), and my early efforts at finding out how to monitor such accounts and tweets is a large part of why I now have this blog about how Twitter appears to work!

Of course being blocked has never stopped anyone from reading a blocker’s tweets as you can always just log out (or use a spare account, or an incognito window) to view anyone’s tweets, as long as the blocker’s account is public.

One disadvantage of being logged out, particularly if you use desktop Twitter, is that you can see only their broadcast tweets and not their ‘Tweets and replies‘ tab. To get around that the search string   »from:username«   had, until yesterday, been a simple workaround while logged in as the blocked account, on desktop or the official mobile app.

As of yesterday it no longer works while logged in as the blocked account – I don’t know if that’s a glitch or a permanent change to Twitter’s search function but for now it looks like your options for viewing tweets from someone who’s blocked you are as follows

  • Log out and use the  »from:username«  search style to view replies as well as broadcast tweets
  • As above in an incognito window (for Twitter searching purposes the two are logiclly the same)
  • Log into a spare account and you can either use the above search strategy or just visit their page (assuming they’ve not blocked your spare account)
  • Use Dabr.co.uk – you can even log in (for the time being, it might change) – as of early July the page seems to be down but https://dabr.eu is still up
  • Try other non-official phone apps too…

You can also search  »to:username«  to see tweets sent to that account if you like.

To see the tweets of someone whom you’ve blocked is as it always was – visit their profile and click on the ‘View tweets’ button.

Alternatives to Storify (which is closing): capture old stories, create new ones

by @JoBrodie – who hopes you’ll tell her about other alternatives you know of 🙂

This post is a work in progress as I am currently trying out the different tools available.

Storify is closing its doors on 16 May 2018 and all content will become unavailable. Any time before that point you can download your own (and other people’s stories). To avoid having to keep writing Storify stories I’m just going to call them Stories for now.

Table of contents

  1. Capturing Storify stories (aka Stories)
    1. … your own
    2. … or anyone else’s
    3. Other capturing options
  2. Re-publishing your Stories
  3. Alternative tools for future use
  4. The search continues…

1. Capturing Stories

Storify‘s cheerily named ‘End of Life’ FAQ can be found here: https://storify.com/faq-eol – follow the instructions in the section called “How do I export content from Storify?

1.1 Capturing your own Stories

You can save your Stories as .XML, .HTML or .JSON files. When I tried with the HTML I was expecting a page of code but ended up with something that wasn’t quite that, and which I couldn’t embed into a new post. However you can still use the Save As option to save it as a web page (or as a PDF). You’d need to do this for each of your Stories.

Screenshot 2018-03-19 20.11.34.png

Screenshot 2018-03-19 20.12.20.png

 

You can also save as a web page by sticking .html at the end of any Story URL, then saving the resulting page.

Example
a) Storify original URL:
https://storify.com/jobrodie/what-happens-when-a-tweet-used-in-storify-is-delet2
(this link will stop working after 18 May)
b) Adding HTML to the end:
https://storify.com/jobrodie/what-happens-when-a-tweet-used-in-storify-is-delet2.html (this link will stop working after 18 May)
c) That HTML file saved to my Dropbox…
https://www.dropbox.com/s/efmgvuaq8h4xfld/What%20happens%20when%20a%20tweet%20used%20in%20Storify%20is%20deleted%3F.html?dl=0
(this link should persist after 18 May)

Wakelet, a free tool, will very helpfully let you export all of your published Stories to its platform and it will automatically publish them for you once done. This works very well. I had 43 published Stories and I set it running last night and woke up to all of them being migrated (I think it probably didn’t take the whole of the night to happen!). So far it has the Jo seal of approval*.

To use it you need to sign up (free, I logged in through Google). You’ll be given a bit of text to add to your Storify profile (a sort of handshake) then you can start the process and select the published Stories you want to import.

Screenshot 2018-03-18 22.49.52.png
You need to insert the bit of text in Step ‘1’ into your Storify bio then complete Step ‘2’ and let it get on with it. There’s also an explanatory video.

For unpublished / draft Stories you can either publish them and do the above, or just get the draft on-screen and save it as a web page.

Sutori, also a free tool, that lets you export your Stories to them too. Here’s their blog post responding to the news of Storify closing. Once you’ve registered you can create a new Story and one of the options is to import from Storify.

Screenshot 2018-03-19 20.02.07.png
Click the ‘Create story’ button on the left, then choose ‘Import from Storify’ that pops up.

Comparison
Here’s the same content, imported from Storify, on Wakelet and Sutori. I think Wakelet wins this particular test because it shows the text of a deleted tweet. I created the Storify in 2011, included in it a tweet that I later deleted to see what happened (the tweet persisted) Storify original | Wakelet import | Sutori import

 

1.2 Capturing someone else’s Story

Sticking .html at the end of any Story URL, then saving the resulting page. I don’t think you can use Wakelet to capture other people’s Stories, but you can with Sutori (however if they receive a ‘please remove’ request from the person who originally wrote it they will delete it).

1.3 Other capturing options

With short Stories you could copy the link for each ‘atom’ that makes up your Story (tweets, YouTube video links etc) and insert them individually into a WordPress dot com blog, but this would be ridiculously labour-intensive for larger Stories. Screenshotting / screencapturing is also an option, or using tools like Freezepage etc.

2. Re-publishing your Stories

Wakelet will automatically take care of that, your Stories now have a new web address (which brings its own annoyance but at least they’re published).

For Stories saved as web pages (or as text, then perhaps as a PDF) you could either upload the PDF to your website (eg a free WordPress dot com blog, like this one) or put the file in something like free Dropbox and share the link wherever you like.

3. Alternative tools for future use

  • Wakelet – this seems to be the most similar to Storify so far (I have not tested it for creation of new Wakelets, only for importing old Stories)
  • Sutori – (how to create a Sutori story guide) I have created an example Sutori with four of my tweets. I think it looks nice but seems to be too labour-intensive for collecting larger volumes of tweets. Possibly I need to spend a bit more time with it.
  • Shorthand Social – I’ve not tried this yet but clearly it lets you embed tweets. I don’t know if it lets you add them at the same volume that Storify did though (several hundred at a time). Here’s their ‘guide to Shorthand Social‘ post.
  • Participate – I have not tested this but it a colleague mentioned that it can save old Storify posts.
  • Twitter threading – if you’re just interested in collecting together a bunch of tweets then create a thread, encouraging people to reply to that (you can use the Unroll tool to get all the participating tweets in one collection). Admittedly this doesn’t work as well if you have a bunch of conversations going on based around a hashtag.
  • Twitter Moments – I think this only works for tweets, don’t think you can add in YouTube links (but I haven’t tried so maybe you can).
  • WordPress dot com blogs – many things will embed into WordPress blogs. I use the free .com version so am a bit more restricted than the .org versions (where you have to download software and you’d have your own server) but you can easily add a tweet’s link and it will autoembed as the full tweet (it will remain if deleted too).

 

4. The search continues…

I wanted to find out what people on Twitter were recommending as an alternative and searching there for Storify alternatives brought up Wakelet as the clear winner, in part because they have been very proactive in contacting people tweeting that they’re seeking alternatives – a sensible use of targeted marketing! There are also lots of people recommending it.

To find additional options I ran the same search but added -wakelet to remove tweets mentioning that to let me see the other options more clearly, that highlighted Sutori and Shorthand Social. Chatting on Twitter let me hear about Participate.

*Re: Wakelet importing
Obviously some things are lost in the transfer – eg the view count, the date of publication and any embedded Stories within a Story will eventually be lost. I tried and failed to add a link to the Wakelet version of one of mine. The Wakelet URL for an imported story is alphanumeric rather than following the pattern of Storify which has its domain / the user name / the name of the Story – that would have been helpful but fairly minor compared to losing all the Stories and the effort involved in capturing them!

When your tweet shows that someone has replied (or you get notifications) but you can’t see the replies

Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.31Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.40Screenshot 2018-02-13 23.26.50
Above: a series of three ‘bits’ below three different tweets (screenshots from Firefox, desktop browser using Twitter.com) showing a tweet with no replies, a single reply and two replies respectively.

I’ve seen a few people wondering why their tweet says that it has some replies (as in the images above), but no tweeted replies show up. There are several reasons why this might be the case. I don’t know what the answer is, these are just best guesses. If you know more, please let us know!

In all cases it’s probably worth checking by logging out and viewing your tweet to see if the responses show up then.

  1. Twitter doesn’t actually show all tweets all the time anyway
    If you’re not seeing your reply below a Tweet, it may be because of an outstanding technical capacity limitation. When there are an overwhelming volume of replies to a Tweet, our platform is unable to show all of these replies.” [Twitter help pages]
  2. Your tweet has received replies from bots and Twitter’s deleted their account, or the tweet. As far as I know the fact that the tweet had X number of replies remains, I don’t think deleting the tweet reduces the response count (does anyone know?).
  3. The people replying have private / locked accounts and so you cannot see their tweet.
  4. You have muted those replying and so are less likely to see their tweets – you can try viewing them by searching from:yourname and they may show up there (or log out). Blocked people aren’t able to reply to your tweets now.
  5. The sender has deleted the tweet – though I’m not sure what this does to the tweet count.
  6. Your better answer goes here 🙂

Further reading
Help with missing tweets (more Twitter help pages)

 

How to add alt-text descriptions to pictures on Twitter for visually impaired people

I’ve seen a couple of tweets and Twitter threads in the last couple of days that have gone a bit viral, highlighting that everyone can set something up in their Twitter settings to make things easier for visually impaired users. If you switch ON the option to be able to caption your photos then, whenever you upload a pic to Twitter, you can click on the image and add a text description. This description doesn’t show up in your tweet (it doesn’t impinge on your character limit) but is useful for those using voice software.

  1. History
  2. How to set it up
  3. Write good descriptions

1. History: Twitter rolls out the ability to add alt text in 2016, initially just for phone apps I think, then later it rolls out to everything.

2. How to set it up

Full info in How to make images accessible for people but for desktop users (like me) the steps look like this, below.

a) Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account and scroll to the bottom of the panel on the left, click on Accessibility.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.12.14

b) Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Compose image descriptions’

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.14.00

Example of what it looks like when you upload a picture to desktop

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.22

Click anywhere on the image to Add description and write your text in the box that appears.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 00.41.55

3. Write good descriptions: Lovely thread from RobotHugsComics (h/t ScottKeir) with suggestions of what to actually write in the description window.