Is there an ‘L’ in your Twitter username?

Thu 8 March 2012 10:15, Tamara Yadvichuk

Is there an ‘L’ in your Twitter username?

On March 4th. Russian online news burst with alarming messages claiming that somebody had hacked the Twitter account of Michael McFaul, the United States Ambassador in Russia, and posted that ‘numerous violations during the presidential elections make the legitimacy of the elections highly questionable’.

I tried to find the initial tweet the hacker posted from the Ambassadors account (@McFaul) using (guess what?) Yandex Twitter search. I couldn’t get to the original one, but I found a number of retweets of the message in question.

Then I tried to find out more about the mysterious hacker, but discovered the following: the Ambassador’s account was not hacked at all! In fact, the message criticizing the elections in Russia was posted from the Twitter account @McFauI with a capital ‘i’, not an ‘L’ at the end!

The fact that Twitter is using a minimalistic sans serif font in which letters ‘L’ and ‘i’ look the same doesn’t really help.


The sneaky ‘McFaui’ account has been blocked by Twitter, but it appears that there is at least one more Twitter user - @_McFaul (also blocked by now) - who pretends to be the real Mr. McFaul and posts politics-related messages in Russian.  This makes it even harder to figure out who actually posted what for regular people not willing to spend hours trying to discover the truth.


So, beware of the letter ‘L’, noble tweeters, because it is very easy to substitute it with an ‘i’ and pretend to be you! 

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