This morning, as news and video of a massive Russian meteorite explosion was spreading across the internet, Twitter's meta-machine groaned to life. At 2:39 a.m EST, an account registered minutes earlier tweeted the following:
Currently, and amazingly, there are over a dozen meteor-related parody accounts (and counting). They're not doing so well.
Lately, inspired by parody accounts that have rocketed to hundreds of thousands of followers on the backs of major news events, Twitter users have started racing, en masse, to lock down the next @bronxzoocobra every time news breaks. But the winners often have little to say, and the results are underwhelming. Marco Rubio's awkward sip of water spawned a small army of accounts, including @rubioh20bottle and @rubiowaterbottl, precisely none of which caught on. Today's meteor accounts aren't faring much better. Except for one.
Shortly after @russianmeteor posted its first tweet, comedian Jake Fogelnest demanded the account be closed:
"I felt a responsibility to protect the public," says Fogelnest, who has nearly 50,000 followers. "I think it was effective in shaming them into realizing what they were doing was wrong. I hope they felt bad. They are a bad person."
Rather than just shame the bad parody accounts, he decided to try to stop them — or at least one of them. He registered @russiameteor and posted what would become the only actually popular tweet posted from an account masquerading as a piece of space rock:
The backlash against parody accounts began a long time ago, but now it's gaining steam. Last week, parody accounts inspired by a dying dolphin stranded in Brooklyn's toxic Gowanus canal were met with disgust, not just from the small but powerful army that typically polices these things, but from Twitter as a whole. Likewise with the meteor: The blast has injured nearly a thousand people. "I have to say brilliant people like @dogboner, @fart, @boring_as_heck and your own @katienotopoulos have done a really great job of pointing out the idiocy of when people create these things," says Fogelnest.
A small cottage industry of Twitter accounts meant to make fun of Twitter parody account — parody account parody accounts — has popped up in response. "I would encourage people if they're looking for real substance, they should follow @KattWillFerrell," says Fogelnest. "It's the greatest. It also points out something really important and that I think people need to remember. And that's that ten years ago we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash, and Bob Hope. Now we have no Jobs, no Cash and no Hope." (Context.)
"There's nothing wrong with creating fun fake Twitter accounts," he says. "It's the 'OOH, I AM GOING TO SEIZE ON THIS POP CULTURE MOMENT AND GET A ZILLION FOLLOWERS BECAUSE I NEED THE VALIDATION BECAUSE I AM A TWERP' thing that I'm officially tired of."
Parody accounts don't need to die, in other words. They just need standards.