Something about Apple’s new Twitter account is very strange

Nathan Baschez
Sep 2, 2016 · 3 min read

So here I am, scrolling through my feed on a Friday night as per usual. And then I see this:

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My first thought: Holy shit! Apple tweeted at my friend Wells!

So then I go click on Apple’s account, and I see this:

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Ok, that’s strange. Didn’t I just see that they tweeted at my friend?

So then I go to my friend’s profile, to see if I can see what they were replying to, and the plot thickens:

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Wat?

As a test, I retweeted it.

Instantly, I get this:

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My theory of what’s going on

I think Apple paid Twitter a lot of money to build this custom thing for them to help drive viewership of their keynote next week. As far as I know, there’s no way to build a bot that behaves like this using the open Twitter API. And the fact that their profile shows no tweets makes it even more sketchy.

But that’s just my theory.

What do you think is happening? Can anyone with actual knowledge of the situation confirm?

Update: The Plot Thickens

Twitter lets you see which client a tweet was posted from (Twitter for Web, Twitter for iPhone, Tweetbot, Tweetdeck, etc), and it turns out these tweets were sent by a mysterious client called “QWVR” (quiver?) which links to https://icgrouplp.com, which is a company that “creates exciting, innovative and engaging promotions that win you consumers.”

So probably IC Group created a custom twitter API client for Apple.

But — I still don’t think this is possible just by using normal Twitter APIs. Perhaps there was a 3-way partnership between Apple, Twitter, and IC Group?

Update 2: “Dark Tweets”

Apparently anyone can buy a “dark tweet”. It’s basically a promoted tweet that you can hide from your followers (and it won’t show up on your profile, either). So that explains part of it.

But would apple really be buying dark tweets for each of their auto-responses? Is that even possible?

Update 3: Mystery Solved (maybe?)

Apparently you can auto-buy “dark tweets” programatically. So that potentially explains the auto-responder. But is Apple really buying each of these tweets? Even so, how? And how are they going to notify us? I once built a twitter bot to notify people via a tweet that mentions them (it was opt-in) and it got taken down by twitter.

The truth is out there 😉

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