Twitter is abuzz that whoever’s behind Manti Te’o's fake dead girlfriend, “Lennay Kay”, is to make a statement from the @LennayKay account in the next few hours. My research suggests that this account is, itself, a fake.
The @LennayKay account is clever: it uses a screenname that was widely reported to belong to Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend and includes a couple of retweets from Manti to establish credibility. There are no other tweets from the account.
SBNation.com first reported the possibility that the account is fake on the basis that the account was created yesterday. I tested this theory by deleting one of my Twitter accounts (@goodrevpublic). I then attempted to create a new Twitter account using the same screenname. That attempt was unsuccessful:
I then re-activated the account and checked its creation date, which remained the same as before I deleted the account:
That means the ‘creation date’ is not a fluke resulting from the re-activation of the account by its true owners.
When an account is deleted from Twitter by its owner, the account’s data is stored for 30 days. During that time, only the original account holder can revive the account, and nobody else may create a new account using that screenname. However, once the 30 days has lapsed, the screenname is again available for use by anyone. (This is different if the account is suspended by Twitter.). Twitter’s message when you deactivate an account roughly backs this up:
We will only retain your user data for 30 days and then it will be permanently deleted. You can reactivate your account at any point within 30 days of deactivation by logging back in.
If you want to use this account’s username or email address on another Twitter account, change it before you deactivate. Until the user data is permanently deleted, that information won’t be available for use.
It would appear at first blush that the recent deletion of the Twitter account belonging to Manti Te’o's opaque girlfriend would mean that whoever’s running the @LennayKay account is the same person who perpetrated the hoax. But, alas, it’s not so.
According to the original DeadSpin story, the original @LennayKay account has been deleted for well more than 30 days:
Lennay Kekua’s Twitter name was @lovalovaloveYOU from 2011 until April 2012, @LennayKay from April until September 2012, and has been @LoveMSMK ever since.
The @LoveMSMK account has been deleted. It was not suspended, as the Tweetbot app (which I use) differentiates between when a user’s account has been deleted or suspended and indicates accordingly.
That means the original perpetrator of the hoax could simply re-activate that account and release a statement there, not on @LennayKay. Thus, unless the @LennayKay account provides some sort of inside information about the hoax that can be independently verified, the @LennayKay account should be treated with considerable skepticism.
What kind of inside information? Beats me. Perhaps direct messages from Manti Te’o which the Te’o family confirms to be true — but I suspect Te’o and his family will be unwilling to indulge this story any further than is necessary to put it behind them.