Fake Jeff Probst Twitter account starts rumor about a relationship between two cast members

A fake Jeff Probst Twitter account left people all atwitter on Sunday after someone impersonating Jeff Probst posed a question about a “shocking” relationship that was “emerging” during Survivor Tocantins, and then said that relationship was between Spencer Duhm and Stephen Fischbach. Like the profile, however, that information was fictitious.

A CBS publicist confirmed to me that “Jeff does not have/nor did he ever have a Twitter account,” and it “was fake from the start and we are talking with Twitter to get it removed.” The fake JeffLeeProbst Twitter account uses the CBS logo and says “official Jeff Probst Twitter” on it, and the person even posted behind-the-scenes Survivor photos, adding to its authenticity.

The Google cache of the page, while it lasts, shows some of the tweets the fake Probst posted, and illustrates that the ruse even went so far as to pretend two staffers were updating it when Probst was away (some celebrities have their staff Twitter for them). It convinced many Survivor cast members, including Rupert Boneham.

Sunday, the fake Probst posted this question (quoted from a re-tweet since the original is protected and/or deleted, along with the rest of the account): “This season we do have a couple emerging from the midst of the game. Guess who the new SURVIVOR couple is!” That set off a flurry of replies and speculation, and the Twitter account’s credibility didn’t seem to have many people doubting that he’d ask such a question or reveal such information on Twitter–besides, that’s what his EW blog is for.

Late Sunday morning, the fake Probst wrote “spencer and stephen,” apparently as the answer to the question posted earlier. Spencer is actually gay and is now dating former Survivor cast member Todd Herzog, though he he won’t talk about that, while Stephen Fishbach is straight.

Stephen reacted pretty well, initially denying it with a “nope” and a reminder that he was straight, which he later repeated and said he didn’t know Spencer was gay until after the show. Later, he wrote, “A Jeff Probst impersonator is making up relationship rumors about me …. Sort of wonderfully bizarre.” He also called the impostor “some crazed fanboy.” At least one cast member leapt to Stephen’s defense: Taj Johnson-George wrote, “You tell’em Stevo! How dare he say that you guys dated!”

This reveals two major problems with Twitter: One, it’s inherently difficult to confirm someone’s identity–how can we even be sure that was Stephen or Taj or Rupert posting?–because of its anonymity. (It is indeed becoming the new MySpace, which is to say a cesspool with bad writing, friend-whoring, and unverifiable identities.) Two, following conversations between more than two people is absurdly difficult, especially when people start deleting their tweets, so piecing together this story wasn’t easy.

But Twitter does allow an interesting kind of eavesdropping between the famous, the fake-famous, and the not-so-famous, as happened here. Once upon a time, cast members were invisible and silent until they were voted off; now the Survivor cast’s incestuous post-experience orgy plays out on social networking sites, and thus in public.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.