As Motherboard reported Tuesday, a diet tea scam went viral on Twitter by selling a story about domestic abuse using photos stolen from a cam model. It’s derailed her career in sex work, at least temporarily, and put her identity at risk.
“you ever see a girl in denial about being in a toxic relationship and want to grab her by her face and tell her how much better her life will be once she comes to her senses,” the thread begins, before unfolding as a personal story about “Ashley’s” toxic relationship involving forced feederism and weight gain—including “before and after” photos of her weight loss.
At the end of thread, she says she used a suspicious supplement called Therma Trim to lose weight, and links to ways to buy it. But the photos from the thread actually belong to a feederism fetish cam model, and the “after” photos are from her struggle and recovery from addiction and an eating disorder.
The cam model (who asked not to be named to protect her privacy) reported the account several times. Twitter removed the first account when Motherboard flagged it to a spokesperson, but more imposters started cropping up and posting the same exact thread—and the woman whose photos are being used isn’t optimistic about it ending anytime soon.
We easily found two more accounts that started posting the same exact domestic abuse thread, complete with the same photos and videos belonging to the cam model. Dozens more people reposted the first tweet of that thread, almost word-for-word, passing it off as their own.
But the imposter accounts follow the same exact script as the first: They signed up for Twitter months ago, didn’t tweet anything until this week, and then launched a thread about abuse that ends with recommending weight loss supplements.
After I emailed Twitter about the two impersonating account Motherboard found, they were suspended within the hour. One of them—which used a photo from the model’s personal, non-sex work Instagram account as its profile photo—had already gotten nearly 10,000 retweets and 32,000 likes.
The model told me that she’s reported the accounts to Twitter multiple times, but that the platform “doesn’t really do anything about it.” She said she reported the first account for “three days, 10 times an hour,” and it was only taken down after it accumulated tens of thousands of retweets and likes and was removed only after I asked about it for my first story. Because of this skinny tea-selling account, she’s deleted her personal blog, and galleries of photos on other database websites where she suspects the scam account stole the photos.
A moderator for that database emailed me to notify me about one of the new tweet threads, and told me that the owner of that website was “none too pleased” about the situation.
In June, Twitter announced it was acquiring Smite, a company that specializes in security issues and spam. Part of this new process for spotting spam and bot accounts involves auditing existing accounts for automated sign-ups and detecting suspicious behavior like high-volume tweeting using “malicious behavior detection systems,” according to the company’s blog. This is all aimed at catching and deleting bots, but there’s nothing in the renewed effort to detect spam that addresses images.
Other platforms have systems in place to protect against copyright violations and abusive accounts when it comes to the images themselves.
This viral tweet and the recurring imposter accounts have forced the real person behind the images to completely change how she uses the internet, she told me. “I think that for every account that person makes and eventually gets reported, another will pop up.”