Tag Archives: balloon release

Thank you Herkimer Elementary for a Twitter spam case study

As my Twitter followers and other friends will know, I actively campaign against balloon releases — they litter, and harm wildlife.

This post isn’t about that, but about something odd which I discovered while doing so.

Each day, I search Twitter for people who are planning a balloon release, and politely ask them not to do it. A sufficient number to make this worthwhile, oblige.

About a year or so ago, give or take, I saw a tweet, the URL of which I have long since lost track of, saying:

Thank you Herkimer Elementary for a beautiful balloon release. Headed to Slavic Pentacostal Church.

(Both venues are in Herkimer, New York, USA, if you wondered.)

But then a while later, I saw exactly the same text tweeted by someone else. Then again by another account, a few days later, then again. This went on, week after week. Gradually, the frequency increased, and now at any time there are hundreds of recent tweets with that text:

https://twitter.com/charolettetm/status/292294397670850561

https://twitter.com/lashernndshane/status/292287884197773312

https://twitter.com/janinemccormi/status/292286193079566336

https://twitter.com/trishadicksonuk/status/292270073828212737

https://twitter.com/lavelleboothjnu/status/292224663940128768

You can try the ‘Herkimer Elementary beautiful balloon release’ search yourself.

If we examine one of the accounts tweeting that, say @janinemccormi (picked at random), we can see he’s tweeted other things:

https://twitter.com/janinemccormi/status/291091194732244993

https://twitter.com/janinemccormi/status/289943029542961152

(Interestingly, a Google image search shows that @janinemccormi’s avatar is shared with @sanevekaxu7, whose account is suspended.)

Those messages have each been tweeted by lots of other people:

https://twitter.com/AugustaGriffit9/status/292298948205502465

https://twitter.com/ChristyFry7/status/292288707422220290

https://twitter.com/GustavoMcclain/status/292285011686723585

https://twitter.com/lawanavdqplaza/status/292249058641338368

https://twitter.com/RenaldoJames2/status/292231467197661184

(‘ASOS Topshop killlllllllling meee’ search).

and again:

https://twitter.com/darcijvgsledfor/status/292313158306111489

https://twitter.com/ErickStephenso2/status/292137319039893504

https://twitter.com/LillianRogers18/status/292135322765103104

https://twitter.com/YolandePowell/status/292116140837191680

(‘preciso sair e passar nos outros fcs ‘-‘ beeijos.’ search).

And so it goes on: hundreds of identical tweets, from accounts making hundreds of other duplicate tweets. You’ll be able to find plenty more examples.

Now, at the risk of casting aspersions on innocent bystanders, I think it’s safe to assume that those are not genuine accounts (or if they are, they’re compromised).

If I were Twitter, I’d be looking into this and suspending some accounts. A lot of accounts.

BBC Balloon Release Complaint

Here’s a complaint I lodged with the BBC, on Saturday, 30 January 2010, with added links and image:

Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, on the BBC’s ‘Chemistry: A Volatile History’, (ep. 2) released a big, red, helium-filled balloon, with a string attached.

On its return to earth, the balloon will become litter. Balloons are harmful to wildlife, as documented by the Marine Conservation Society.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 unequivocally makes it is an offence to drop ‘or otherwise deposit’ litter in a public place.

The Marine Conservation Society are campaigning to stop balloon releases, both by persuasion in the short term and, eventually, through prohibitive legislation. They are supported in that campaign by a large number of reputable organisations, including the RSPB, the RSPCA, the National Farmers’ Union, the Tidy Britain Group, Keep Scotland Beautiful, county bird clubs, various Wildlife Trusts and other organisations.

Please make it BBC policy to forbid the release of balloons, as many other organisations have done.

I’ve e-mailed a courtesy copy of the complaint to Prof. Al-Khalili. I’ll let you know what responses I get.