After the launch of the X Factor live finals a fortnight ago, finalists have begun to warn their Twitter followers that they are no longer allowed to use the social networking site.
The move follows a number of fake Twitter profiles springing up, including “spoof” accounts for contestants Storm Lee and Katy Waissel which claimed that Lee had walked off the show and (prior to his being voted off this weekend) and, in Waissel’s case, gathered over 1,300 followers under the name “@katieweasel” through making comments such as:
“Like his name for me ‘protituta’(lovely flower), Wagner now also has a name for storm.’testiculo’ which he says means ‘talented’ in brazil.”
Shortly after, other contestants informed their followers that a “Twitter Ban” had been put in place by the Show’s producers, with many stating that the reason behind it was the sheer number of fake profiles and to ensure that the real contestants were not blamed for comments made by imitators.
Although some commentators will argue with justification that contestants tweeting their fanbase only adds to the participatory nature of the show (and can help to advertise the fact that performances from the show can be downloaded as soon as they’ve been broadcast), this announcement comes as very little surprise for a number of reasons.
Firstly, we can only assume that every contestant that has made it through to the live final has signed a confidentiality agreement with the show’s producers and as such the likelihood is that if they were to let anything slip in a Tweet, they would almost immediately find themselves in breach.
The show depends to a large extent on remaining unpredictable and as such any hint of what may be happening on an upcoming broadcast which has not been sanctioned and carefully vetted could lead to a momentary blip in ratings – especially if an audience favourite is thought to be on the verge of leaving the competition.
When considering this and the threat of potential libel proceedings which could upset corporate sponsors, the need to keep whatever commentary that does make its way into the Social Media environment makes the decision a sensible one.
The Social Media community has already begun to generate its own buzz around the show, including allegations that several of the contestants are already signed to record deals. There are a number of official X Factor Twitter Feeds and the best way to deal with adverse commentary here may well be to engage rather than litigate.
In this case, it’s certainly true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but the more extreme stories to come out of the show, such as “Gamugate” – the scandal around the immigration status of a contestant who was seen as a potential winner of the overall competition only to be excluded from the process by Judge Cheryl Cole – will need to be managed to protect the show’s reputation.
The X Factor creates an image, both for itself and for its contestant. In an environment where even the most carefully crafted persona can be damaged at the speed of a Tweet, taking action (although not necessarily through the Courts) to protect it is all part of the process.
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