Kyodo News has found 29 Twitter users posing as political party leaders on the Internet ahead of the launch Thursday of Japan's first election campaign in which candidates are allowed to use the Internet.
Ten users of the social network service were posing as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including one who uses the same photo as on Abe's official Twitter site and adopts the username of Abeshinso, similar to the premier's real username of AbeShinzo.
Eight Twitter users were posing as People's Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, five as Japan Restoration Party co-leader Toru Hashimoto, four as Shintaro Ishihara, the party's other co-leader, one as Democratic Party of Japan head Banri Kaieda and one as Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima.
Twitter Japan has used a blue mark to certify famous people's Twitter sites as authentic in a bid to prevent other twitter users from posing as those people.
It plans to use the mark for all those who register Thursday as candidates in the July 21 House of Councillors election, urging voters to correctly identify candidates.
Most tweets on the spoof Twitter sites are jokes and can be easily identified as inauthentic.
But Prime Minister Abe's office urged spoofers to immediately close sites that could mislead people. Hashimoto's office said such sites should be cracked down on.
Twitter Japan said it will ask spoofers to change their names or close their sites, if requested to do so by authentic Twitter users.
The revised public office election law prohibits anyone posing as an election candidate for campaign purposes including soliciting votes. Anyone who violates the rule could be sentenced to a prison term of up to two years or a fine of up to 300,000 yen and lose the right to vote or be elected.