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'Chief whip' tweet suggests early general election

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A sensational tweet from a Labour chief whip has spilled the beans on the next election - except that it probably hasn't at all.

A message sent from a Twitter account registered in the name of New Labour chief whip Nick Brown on Wednesday morning suggested "the new speaker will have only have a few weeks to get settled in before the election is called".

A new speaker is due to be elected on 22 June, after the current speaker Michael Martin was pressured into resigning on Tuesday over his handling of the MPs' expenses affair. Taken at face value, the message would suggest an October general election (since UK general elections never happen in summer, by convention).

However, the @nickbrownmp profile from which the message was sent was deleted shortly after sending the messages and was only used to send this one message, according to net security expert Graham Cluley of Sophos.

The circumstances of the message strongly suggest it was sent from a fake account. Nevertheless the post, sent in reply to a message from Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell, has generated tons of fevered speculation in the blogosphere. A search of Twitter itself shows that many microbloggers are suitably cynical, but that a fair degree of gullibility persists.

Twitter is famed as an early outlet for breaking news, but it is also spectacularly good at widely and rapidly disseminating completely baseless crap. On Tuesday numerous tweets began circulating that Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze had died. Swayze is fighting pancreatic cancer, but remains very much alive.

Twitter's advanced search page allows users to find deleted Tweets, an issue highlighted earlier this week after UK chat show host Jonathan Ross accidentally posted his personal email address in a message. Even though he quickly deleted the message the information was still easily obtainable, because Twitter fails to purge deleted tweets from its system. ®

Bootnote

A hat-tip to political blogger Dizzy Thinks for being among the first to write up a story on the fake Brown's deleted Tweet.

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