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What's in a Name? Understanding Profile Name Reuse on Twitter

Mariconti, E; Onaolapo, J; Ahmad, S; Nikiforou, N; Egele, M; Nikiforakis, N; Stringhini, G; (2017) What's in a Name? Understanding Profile Name Reuse on Twitter. In: Barrett, R and Cummings, R and Agichtein, E and Gabrilovich, E, (eds.) Proceedings of the 26th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2017). (pp. pp. 1161-1170). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM): New York, NY, USA. Green open access

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Abstract

Users on Twitter are commonly identified by their profile names. These names are used when directly addressing users on Twitter, are part of their profile page URLs, and can become a trademark for popular accounts, with people referring to celebrities by their real name and their profile name, interchangeably. Twitter, however, has chosen to not permanently link profile names to their corresponding user accounts. In fact, Twitter allows users to change their profile name, and afterwards makes the old profile names available for other users to take. In this paper, we provide a large-scale study of the phenomenon of profile name reuse on Twitter. We show that this phenomenon is not uncommon, investigate the dynamics of profile name reuse, and characterize the accounts that are involved in it. We find that many of these accounts adopt abandoned profile names for questionable purposes, such as spreading malicious content, and using the profile name's popularity for search engine optimization. Finally, we show that this problem is not unique to Twitter (as other popular online social networks also release profile names) and argue that the risks involved with profile-name reuse outnumber the advantages provided by this feature.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: What's in a Name? Understanding Profile Name Reuse on Twitter
Event: WWW 2017: 26th International World Wide Web Conference, 3-7 April 2017, Perth, Western Australia
Location: Perth, AU
Dates: 03 April 2017 - 07 April 2017
ISBN-13: 9781450349130
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1145/3038912.3052589
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3038912.3052589
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 International World Wide Web Conference Committee (IW3C2). Published under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Social network; OSN; Profile name; Impersonation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540256
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