The Police of Finland has been noticeably increasing its presence on social media, especially on Twitter where there’s more than 60 official accounts already. Most of these accounts represent individual police officers, and therefore they’re supposed to represent the official police’s brand and communication, but of course there’s bound to be some personal nuances included in the tweets as well. This personal tone is perfectly normal and only human, but unfortunately it makes them (individuals and the police) a target for a backslash.

And oh boy, they’ve been targeted alright. As of this writing, there’s at least eight parody accounts made of Finnish Police, and most of them have been activated within the last two months. Although parody accounts are accepted in Twitter’s policy and often intended just as harmless fun, I wanted to take a closer look at these eight and see if I could find any interesting details on them.

There were definitely some similarities and other easily connectable dots between the eight that were apparent even after just a quick glance (e.g. multiple mentions of “vihapuhe” = “hate speech”). I realize that by doing this I’m just feeding the trolls, so to speak, but let’s just call this professional curiosity that prompted me to investigate further.

This light analysis is divided in the following parts:

  • Turku 2017 terror attack as a possible starting point?
  • Comparison of the accounts
  • Common nominators
  • Twitter fails of actual police accounts
  • Whats’s next?

 

Turku 2017 terror attack as a possible starting point?

On 18 August 2017, the first ever Islamic terror attack happened on Finland’s soil (Wikipedia link, so take it with a grain of salt). This sparked many different repercussions, most notable being the attempted fast-tracking of Finnish Intelligence Law. And as said before, most of these parody accounts seem to have been activated right after the event.

Based on the bios of the accounts, the main target of their parody (or satire?) was the way police tried to control (hate) speech after the event. Unfortunately, that combined with the way the Finnish police avoided to call the attack Islamic terrorism, only fueled the discontent and angry frustration of this particular crowd, which according to my hypothesis, then created these parody accounts as a way to went their feelings.

 

Comparison of the accounts:

 

Account: @verkkopoliisi “the net police”
Associated email: mo***************@g****.***
Created: December 2015
First tweet: 30.8.2017
Following/Followers: 384/183
Identifies as a parody: Yes
Notes: The oldest account on this list. Clearly used for something else before (as I highly doubt this person would have had the self-discipline to have a sleeper account waiting couple of years just for this). Has deleted all tweets and likes before the activation of this account identity, as well as unfollowed everyone. Despite old age, not too many followers. Been actively engaging with @vihapuhepoliisi since re-activation.

 

Account: @poliisileijona “police lion”
Associated email: po************@g****.***
Associated phone number: ********67
Created: March 2017
First tweet: 7.3.2017
Following/Followers: 932/500
Identifies as a parody: Yes
Notes: Seems to have been created in a response to actual Poliisileijona (“Police Lion”) video from January 2017. This Orwellian video got a lot of negative feedback at the time, as its script was pretty much directly from 1984: a kid rats out on her parent’s thought crimes to the friendly and helpful big brother Poliisileijona. At the same time, the Finnish Police also published their Vihapuhe (“hate speech”) video, where they launched #kivapuhe campaign (“kivapuhe” translates roughly to “nicetalk” or “nice speech”). See a theme emerging yet? To sum it up, in the account’s bio it says “Sananvastuu ennen sananvapautta”, which means “Responsibility of speech before the freedom of speech”. Currently this account tweets around the same themes as the rest of these parody accounts.

 

Account: @vihapuhepoliisi “the hate speech police”
Created: July 2017
First tweet: 8.7.2017
Following/Followers: 1570/1654
Identifies as a parody: Yes
Notes: The most notable account of the bunch. The one that inspires the other seven, and the other seven frequently tend to retweet or reference to this one. Probably the most well-known to the Finnish Twitter populace. Very active account and according to his own words, over 1,5 million tweet impressions. Also, as far as I know the only one of these that has been reported to Twitter, but so far, the account has not been suspended.

 

Account: @Kivapoliisi “the nice police”
Associated email: po****************@g****.***
Created: August 2017
First tweet: 25.8.2017
Following/Followers: 121/181
Identifies as a parody: Yes
Notes: Admits straight in its bio that the account is inspired by @vihapuhepoliisi. Again, most of the tweets tend to revolve around sarcastic takes on #vihapuhe. Hasn’t gained a lot of traction. Turku as the location is another nod towards the terror attack.

 

Account: @somepoliisi “the social media police”
Associated phone number: ********37
Created: August 2017
First tweet: 10.9.2017
Following/Followers: 240/91
Identifies as a parody: Sort of
Notes: Interesting, but not entirely surprising to see Pepe the Frog making its way to this bunch. Again, not a lot of traction, but direct connections to @vihapuhepoliisi. All 40 tweets done on the same day!

 

 

 

Account: @1984Nyt “1984 now”
Associated email: ja**@t***.**
Associated phone number: ********36
Created: September 2017
First tweet: 8.9.2017
Following/Followers: 1742/279
Identifies as a parody: Yes
Notes: The pattern continues. Not a lot of traction, but direct connections to @vihapuhepoliisi. As the account handle suggest, this time a bit more thought crime oriented tweets, but the vihapuhe theme is still strong as well. Aggressively follows anyone who has any interaction with Keijo, but there might be also other ways this account is targeting new people to follow. The associated email address is an interesting one.

 

Account: @huumepoliisi “the drug police”
Associated phone number: ********37
Created: September 2017
First tweet: 10.9.2017
Following/Followers: 135/64
Identifies as a parody: Sort of
Notes: The latest newcomer to the @vihapuhepoliisi fan club. All 19 tweets done on the same day. Nothing notable, except that the associated phone number ends in the same numbers as the one for @somepoliisi.

 

 

Account: @KIPUkonstaapeli “the nice talk constable”
Associated email: ma************@m********.**
Created: September 2017
First tweet: 11.9.2017
Following/Followers: 18/7
Identifies as a parody: Yes
Notes: This one popped up while I was writing this analysis. Doesn’t have the same background image as the most of these accounts have, instead it’s some vihapuhe-hashtag-logo. Only 19 tweets, all during the same day (yesterday). Some references to @vihapuhepoliisi, but not as numerous as the other accounts have. Besides the normal vihapuhe theme, also comments on sexism and equality.

Common nominators:

  • Vihapuhe seems to be the strongest theme across all the accounts.
  • Although Turku terror attack might have instigated some of these accounts, they don’t tend to refer that much to Muslims, Islam, terrorism or the event itself.
  • Tweeting times seem to correspond with Finnish timezone.
  • Even the most active accounts seem to be using mostly just Twitter’s web client.
  • Many of the parody accounts claim that some of the police’s real accounts, namely @HuhtelaJussi and @JariTaponen, produce even more “comical content” than the parody accounts themselves. Also, it seems that this idea is repeatedly shared or at least sympathized among the follower base of the parody accounts.
  • Looking at the three largest accounts @1984Nyt, @vihapuhepoliisi and @poliisileijona:
    • they all follow each other
    • 369 accounts are followed by all three
    • 83 accounts follow all three
    • looking at both lists, if they’re stripped out of bots and follow-4-follow accounts, a pretty clear group or type of people emerges
    • I have saved and sorted both following and followers. If you’re interested in these lists, send me a DM and I’ll create a pastebin for you. Note: all this data is publicly and relatively easily available for everyone, I just compiled it.

 

Twitter fails of actual police accounts

I have nothing but respect towards the Finnish police. However, I don’t think it was a particularly smart move to put so many of them on Twitter. I mean, that’s just a disaster waiting to happen in my books. They have been blocking people (is this something that a public servant should be allowed to do? At least some in USA have been saying that POTUS shouldn’t be allowed to do that), and even their innocent and well-meaning tweets have been (and constantly are) misunderstood, the 140-character limitation certainly not helping the situation.

But nothing that could be described as a disaster had happened before this tweet thread:

I did some close look at those replies and found a couple of things:

Click to enlarge. Those icons are small, but looking closely it was evident that the police officer had kept replying to some of these comments. A bad move, my friend.

Also, looking all the way to the left of that graph, couple of familiar faces can be found:

These parody accounts haven’t replied directly to the original tweet (maybe they’ve all been blocked?), but when they did get involved in the thread, they answered to the same tweet. But of course the parody accounts took full advantage of this situation and referenced to the police’s original tweet numerous times on their own timelines.

Although those engagement numbers in that thread don’t seem to be through the roof, but nevertheless it got enough traction for Infowars to take notice:

 

Read those ~500 comments at your own risk.

 

What’s next?

Well first of all, I’d suggest that if the Finnish Police really wants to have so many official Twitter accounts, at least they could provide some more training to the people running them. Keep politics and personal opinions out of those streams. And ffs, try to keep the troll feeding to a minimum. Take a look at the mirror, don’t just think what these parody accounts are doing wrong, think what you have been doing to enable their wrongdoing.

Second, understand and be at peace with the fact that you can’t “win”. It is simply not possible to block or quiet everyone who makes fun of the police. As long as they keep within legal boundaries, just suck it up and let it be. Fighting them only makes it worse. Think of these tweeps as a hydra: cut one head and three others will take its place.

As for the parody accounts themselves, it already seems that some of their owners aren’t that dedicated in running them. I suspect more than half of these have more or less died off by the end of the year, one or two accounts staying more active than the others.

Generally, I’m not too interested in Finnish Twitter, but I’m fairly familiarized with the left, right, conservative and progressive groups that are active on it. Looking at the folks that engage with these parody accounts, I’m not surprised to see which type of people account for the most them. Although one can make the argument that the core concept of these parody accounts isn’t far-fetched and as an original idea it probably was (is?) amusing to the silent majority, but like with many phenomena on Twitter, it’s the vocal minority that keeps it alive.

And that wraps up my light-weight OSINT analysis of these parody accounts. If you’re interested in what the accounts are tweeting, but don’t want to directly follow them, feel free to check out this Twitter list I made. The list also includes the two aforementioned real police accounts for reference points. It’s possible that I’ve missed some smaller accounts or that new accounts will still pop up in the following days, but this topic is not that interesting that I’d keep actively updating this blog post. I might update that Twitter list for a while, but I might just as well delete it.

Thanks for reading. Play nice out there!

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