Mirror, Mirror

In fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger, doppelgaenger or doppelganger (/ˈdɒp(ə)lˌɡɛŋə/ or /ˌɡæŋə/; German:[ˈdɔpəlˌɡɛŋɐ] ), literally “double goer”) is a look-alike or double of a living person who is sometimes portrayed as a harbinger of bad luck. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person’s relative or friend portends illness or danger while seeing one’s own doppelgänger is said to be an omen of death.

She’s got my face; she’s got my name. She says the things I say, and she says she lives where I live. She looks just like me– a perfect copy. But she’s not me at all.

Her name’s @hwevekra, and she’s a spambot on Twitter.

When you type my name into the Twitter search bar, as I do occasionally, three things come up. One is me– @hweverka, my Twitter account. One is @catsspamaccount, a Twitter I’ve used occasionally when an organization wants me to auto-tweet or “verify my identity”. But when I searched myself about a week ago, a strange account popped up.

Hannah Wevekra— she uses my name, Hannah Weverka, but because of her Twitter handle I’ll call her Wevekra to avoid confusion– has not tweeted anything. She does, however, have my exact avatar, a selfie during a snowstorm last January; she has my cover image, a wall where the words THE WITCHES ARE COMING is graffitied in sloppy letters; she has my description, she has a link to this blog, she says she lives in New York.

But the date she joined Twitter is hidden– and she only follows three people, which is not like me at all.

So who is Hannah Wevekra? Who would create an account that imitates mine so exactly and not do anything with it? What’s this all about?

The answer is a particularly interesting look at a part of social media most people don’t hear a lot about: follower-buying.

You see ads for it, occasionally, when you click on a particularly popular hashtag. Spambots will tweet that they can get you 100 followers if you only click this link– or pay them money– or do whatever it is this week; typically, you scroll past them to get to the real material. But not everyone, it seems, does this.

On Twitter– and not only on Twitter, but on Facebook and other social media sites– people “selling followers” will create huge numbers of empty accounts, with no one operating them. They’ll mechanically like or follow whatever page their creator tells them to, and then post nothing at all; their only purpose is to make the follower-buyer look good.

In all honesty, there really isn’t a lot of point to buying followers. When you come down to it, there aren’t many people in the world who actually care how many likes your fanpage for Ariana Grande has, or how many followers your Barack Obama parody Twitter account has; mostly, what people care about is if your page or account or blog is any good. But nevertheless people buy followers, and Hannah Wevekra is the proof.

She follows three Twitter accounts: a parody of the Kremlin called @KermlinRussia, the Russian news channel Channel One, and an extremely right-wing Russian actor called Ivan Okhlobystin. (Three guesses as to the nationality of the people who created her, and the first two don’t count.) This is common for followbots like Hannah Wevekra: in order to look more real, they’ll follow not only their client but also a few other accounts. It’s almost impossible to tell which of the three accounts actually paid for her to be built.

And Ms. Wevekra, as we can see, is particularly dedicated to looking real. After all, she has my face; she has my name. Her function is to look like an actual, human follower, and lifting my avatar and descriptions is a quick and easy way to do that. For a robot, she’s pretty clever.

I contemplated reporting @hwevekra as a spam account. It’s definitely an option available to me, and after all, the people who made her are technically spammers; the three accounts she follows don’t deserve as many followers as they’ve got.

But in the end I decided against it. She’s not hurting anyone; it’s nice to have followers, but most people who aren’t you don’t care that much if you’ve got 1,983 or 1,982.

And besides, it’s hard not to like her– just a little bit. After all, they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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