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Online impersonator prompts Otter to tweet

Governor joins popular Web site

BOISE – A bogus Twitter account set up five weeks ago in the name of Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has been shut down but was reopened with the real governor sending out tweets.

“We are doing the input of the messages with info provided by the governor’s office,” said Teresa Luna, chief of staff for the Department of Administration. “We expect in the next few days we will be giving them the tools they need to do it themselves.”

The popular social networking and micro-blogging site allows messages, called tweets, of up to 140 characters.

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor’s office was alerted Monday that someone was impersonating the governor with a fake Twitter account and sending out messages.

The trail initially led to a state tax commission employee, Wyatt Werner, who first said he wasn’t sending out the fake tweets, but started singing when an investigator from the Idaho attorney general’s office confronted him with a printout of all of his social networking profiles.

“I feel like I’m a bit thrown under the bus,” said Werner, who acknowledged he checked social networking accounts on breaks at work but is now banned from Twitter and online blogs while on the job.

Werner put the investigator on the phone with Albion resident Shane Carlson, one of Werner’s partners in the Boise tech firm Pronetos. Carlson acknowledged he created the fake Twitter account using Otter’s name.

“I said, ‘It’s called satire,’ ” Carlson said about his conversation with the investigator. “We live in a state with a one-party system that has a tendency to think too highly of itself.”

But state officials weren’t amused and complained to Twitter officials, who on Thursday closed the fake account.

Later that day it reopened, and the real governor sent out his first message: “The Governor of Idaho is now on Twitter to help make Idaho government more open and accessible to our citizens.”

His second message was to announce that the state has created a Web site to keep residents updated about swine flu.

As of Saturday, the governor had more than 100 followers signed up to get his tweets.

The photo on the new account is of the governor, wearing a cowboy hat, and first lady Lori Otter. The fake Otter account showed a black silhouette of an assault rifle and the line: “This is my voting machine.”

Fans of the fake Otter account have tweeted that they are disappointed at the change, saying the bogus account had a better sense of humor.


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