Monday, January 25, 2010

Vatican Twitter Feed Looks Like Computer Generated Hoax

@Vatican_Va went live on twitter a few weeks ago and already they’ve sent out 34,677 tweets. I figure that would take the combined efforts of several congregations doing nothing but tweeting. John Thavis at CNS’ Rome Bureau smelled a rat and did some digging:

I e-mailed Father Federico Lombardi, who heads both the Vatican press office and Vatican Radio. I got a response rather quickly, and a surprising one. He said the Twitter feed was news to him, and that neither the press office nor Vatican Radio was doing the tweeting. A call to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications elicited a similar response: it wasn’t them, and they didn’t know who it was.

John’s going to stay on the story and if he uncovers an actual Vatican sponsor for the twitter-feed, we’ll update this, but I don’t think it’s likely.

For a number of reasons, I suspect the Vatican twitter feed is a computer generated hoax:

1. All of the Vatican tweets are nothing but the headlines of stories followed by a bit.ly link to the story.

2. Sometimes the headlines are truncated to fit, never edited to send a more coherent message. Most twitter users that are human tend to try to get the gist of the thought out rather than simply truncating a message to fit the character count.

3. This morning, several tweets were missing the bit.ly link and in it’s place was an “ERROR” message. For example:

I vescovi del Kenya: la vita inizia dal concepimento ERROR

If a human being messes up a tweet, they generally try again. Yet no attempt was made to correct those tweets or to repost the intended article. Furthermore, all the ERROR tweets were in a cluster.

4. There’s 34,677 tweets, which as @americanpapist noted this morning is ridiculous.

Congrats and thanks to @CatholicNewsSvc for investigating this.

By the way, The Catholic Key twitter feed is for real. Follow us @CatholicKey