Twitter is Full of Dead People

Jennifer Geer

I’ve been down the rabbit hole of ‘Dead Twitter’ to find it’s alive and well

Image by Darvin Santos from Pixabay

Twitter has been in a whirlwind of controversy lately. On one side it's taken hits for allowing dangerous conspiracy theories to take hold throughout America. On the other side, it's banned the president's account, leading to discussions of free speech.

Hint, the First Amendment doesn't mean a privately owned company can't ban whomever they want for whatever policy violations they want. If you start mandating what private companies can do, well, you're sounding a bit like a communist, aren't you?

But I'm not here to talk about free speech or banned Twitter accounts. Today I'd like to talk to you about dead Twitter. And it all begins with Herman Cain.

Herman Cain

Herman Cain was a one-time presidential candidate and strong President Trump supporter. Cain died this summer from coronavirus, less than two weeks after attending Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa. He had shared a picture of himself at the rally on Twitter, sitting close to others with no facial coverings to be seen.

Now here's where things get a bit odd. He tweeted the following from his verified Twitter account about a month after his death, “it looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media first made it out to be.”

The tweet, as you can imagine caused a bit of a stir among the Twitter world. Mainly because, well, how much more deadly can you get than being dead? And secondly, who tweeted this anyway?

The controversial tweet was deleted, but nothing is ever gone online. You can still find screenshots of it. And Cain's account is active and going strong today. He tweets almost daily. Death hasn't ended his strong support for Trump.

This leads me to some questions.

  • What is Twitter’s policy on death?
  • Do celebrity accounts stay verified after their death?
  • What other dead celebrities are actively tweeting today?

Come down the rabbit hole with me as we look into what’s otherwise known as Dead Twitter.

Question #1: What is Twitter’s policy on death?

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

This is according to the official help center from Twitter.

“In the event of the death of a Twitter user, we can work with a person authorized to act on behalf of the estate, or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.” — Twitter Help Center

So it is possible to have the account deactivated but, it would require the person’s estate or family members to provide Twitter with certain information, including a death certificate.

Yet, there is nothing in this section that states, in the event you would like to pretend to be the dead Twitter user, feel free to continue on tweeting as long as you have the password and as long as we’re still around.

Question #2: Do celebrity accounts stay verified after their death?

Yes, they do. There are even verified Twitter accounts from users that were dead long before Twitter existed. We’ll talk about that below.

What does verified status mean? It means the following, according to Twitter. “The blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.” There is a list of violations that can cause you to lose your verified status.

But none of the named violations include passing on to the great beyond.

Question #3: What other dead celebrities are actively tweeting today?

Image by Richard Mcall from Pixabay

There are so many. And all are verified accounts at the time of this writing.

Here are some of the most influential ones:

Stan Lee.

Stan’s account is very busy. When you read the bio, you can see that it’s a marketing team managing the account in his name. And most of the tweets mention Stan in the third person.

Roger Ebert

Roger’s account is run by his wife. Most of his are just retweets of her tweets. But, occasionally, an original tweet will come through, giving out the eerie feeling that a ghost is behind it.

Marilyn Monroe

Her account has the blue badge! She died in 1962 and still was verified by Twitter. Which, according to them, means her account is authentic. Her bio states, “Marilyn Tweeting on behalf of the Estate of Marilyn Monroe.” It’s obviously a money maker, as many of the tweets would like you to shop the Marilyn Monroe collection at your local retail store.

Amy Winehouse

This talented singer died tragically in 2011, yet, she's still active on Twitter. This account is mainly marketing for her albums.

Paul Walker

He died of a car accident in 2013. His Twitter is still verified, and his bio states that he is an “Outdoorsman, ocean addict, adrenaline junkie…and I do some acting on the side.” His profile is run by his team, but the bio makes it sound like he’s still out there having fun adventures and doing some acting. Recently his ghost has been tweeting quotes from profound people such as Maya Angelou.

Michael Jackson

Michael died in 2009, but his Twitter account is active today. In 2016, he surprised Twitter users with a congratulatory tweet to Kobe Bryant on his retirement from the NBA. It received such responses such as, “Heaven got wifi or Michael Jackson alive” -@iamHamdsome12.

Joan Rivers

Her account is run by her daughter, and it’s mainly a series of throwback Thursday tweets from Melissa. Occasionally, the tweets aren’t in the third person giving the odd impression that Joan is back. In 2016, a Merry Christmas tweet seemingly from Joan caused Twitter some confusion.

The moral line is thinly drawn

Most of these accounts talk about preserving a legacy in their bios. And some, like Joan Rivers’ throwback tweets, seem to do just that. But most are simply marketing tools still selling the goods long after the cash cow has left the building.

Whether it’s moral or not to tweet from a dead person’s account is subjective. The real issue is, social media manipulates. How many of us are even aware of the many ways our opinions are being skewed?

We don't need foreign countries to manipulate our thoughts (and believe me, they are), we do it to ourselves.

Does this need to be said? I’ll say it anyway.

Don’t believe everything you read on social media.

It's so important, I'll say it again. Don’t believe everything you read on social media!

It may be the truth. It may be a lie. And it may be a vague interpretation of the truth strung together in such a misleading manner it gets you to believe wild conspiracy theories.

Social media is fun some of the time. Frustrating much of the time. But what it is not is a valid way to see the world. Don’t get your news via a tweet.

Remember Herman Cain. Don’t believe dead people when they say the cause of their death isn’t deadly.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL

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