Raising Cain: Former CEO’s Posthumous Tweets Cause Confusion

Herman Cain

Casual Twitter scrollers yesterday may have noticed a tweet from the deceased former CEO and 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain. The tweet linked to a new Trump campaign ad, discrediting Joe Biden, the Democrat presidential candidate. 

Needless to say, most Twitter users who practice an even-keeled infinite scroll, were shocked and confused. 

An Unofficial Announcement

For those seeking more information on Cain's tweets seemingly emerging from beyond the grave, account owners updated the bio, as well as included a pinned statement from a group called The Cain Gang. The bio states Cain's daughter, team and family now run the account. 

However, for many fast-and-furious Twitter users, looking at a bio or pinned tweet is an afterthought. The announcement may have worked better with a continuous distribution over several tweets throughout the day. 

Deceased Tweet Ownership

In addition, what statutes apply when it comes to utilizing an account of the deceased? What are the rights of the deceased when it comes to social media representation? Cain passed two weeks ago. Apparently that was enough of a vacation in the afterlife for his accounts to reignite. Some users may perceive this as crass or questionable. 

Ryan Garcia, author of Social Media Law in a Nutshell, said Twitter policies regarding these issues provide only vague guidelines as to whom an account can be bequeathed to.

Twitter policy states: “We are unable to provide account access to anyone regardless of their relationship to the deceased.” The platform offers a page on how to contact them (Twitter, not the deceased) regarding the profile of a person who has passed. The rules are nuanced. 

“That policy is about Twitter providing access,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t address whether a person can give control of an account to someone. It looks like this would be something better addressed through [Twitter's] verification system. Like if a verified account holder dies, should the account continue to be verified?”

Garcia noted that the Cain tweets are not the first time this issue has arisen. One of the most infamous examples includes a post appearing from the deceased Joan Rivers endorsing an iPhone. Editing Cain’s bio is a step in the right direction, Garcia said, but it's not ideal.

“Disclosing in the bio is at least an attempt to be transparent, but not a great solution.”

It seems as if Twitter might be wise to step in and clarify responsibilities for all parties on the posthumous account issue. If users are confused, and the language is vague, the rights of everyone involved are at risk.

“We’re so used to accounts being people as opposed to networks of affiliation that it can seem odd,” Garcia said. “Heck, people loved the Blockbuster tweet recently even though they’re mostly dead.” 

Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her: @buffalogal