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Anonymous Boston transit Twitter troll not backing down

A crafty, frustrated city-dweller earned a Twitter suspension with a city-mocking parody account Monday.

After a few hours of trolling, a short-lived parody Twitter account went dark on Monday, but the anonymous tweeter behind it has no plans of stopping soon.

The account, @Boston_ BTD, posed as an official mouthpiece for the Boston Transportation Department, complete with an official-looking bio and photo.

“Hello Boston! Tell us what you love about transportation in Boston,” the first tweet read.

But it quickly became clear it was a venue for lulz, with everything from sarcastic barbs about unreliable service (the announcement that “Your bus will be late tomorrow.”) and unusually frank replies to users who thought they were tweeting to the real deal.

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“Any plans in the works for comprehensive transit signal priority in Boston? T can’t do it without you,” asked one user. “No,” the account responded.

Soon, after lots of attention and a story in The Boston Globe, the fun was over. According to a notice from Twitter, the account had been suspended.

The city contacted the social media site with concerns about the account’s use of the BTD logo, a spokeswoman told Metro.

And then it appeared to re-emerge, this time as @Boston_DPW.

“What’s the Red Line looking like today? Will I make it home okay?” one Twitter user asked @Boston_DPW Monday afternoon.

“With the snow we got yesterday, the Red Line is all kinds of messed up. Unlikely you’ll make it home tonight,” the account responded.


As of 3 p.m. on Monday, the new account was still active.

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Its founder, who spoke with Metro via Twitter direct message and asked to remain anonymous, said they (the person declined to share their gender or age but said they live in the city) was inspired to start the account by lack of direction on transit in Boston.

“I’m someone that rides the bus, takes the train and rides a bicycle in the city, and (like many others in the city) have grown really frustrated with the autocentric transportation priorities of the city,” they wrote. “There’s the simple fact that they don’t have a social media presence, but the more important issue is the actual infrastructure they are ignoring.”

In an email to Metro, Bonnie McGilpin, a city spokeswoman, pointed out a few transit-related city initiatives in the works.

“In response to the mystery tweeter, we have an activeGo Boston 2030 twitter account, the City of Boston accounttweets transportation updates regularly, and our@Bos311account is constantly engaging with residents on service requests that involve BTD,” McGilpin wrote.

She also noted that the MBTA is run by the state, not the city.

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Meanwhile, it’s certainly been an interesting day for the Boston Twitter mini-celebrity. The gag’s popularity — it attracted around 350 followers in fewer than 24 hours, the tweets’ author said - caught them by surprise.

This was their first run at making a fake online persona using social media, they said. They said they were taking the Twitter shutdown in stride and told Metro they plan to keep running the parody account in one form or another for as long as they can.

“As long as it’s fun (which it was) then I’ll keep doing it,” they said. “That’s mostly dependent upon people lobbing their frustrations at me though.”

A Twitter representative said the company cannot comment on individual accounts, but said it had fielded 33 requests to review Twitter accounts from government officials in Massachusetts in the first half of 2015.

 

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