Israel Strikes Deal With Porn Site Owner for Twitter Account

Sep 18, 2010 6:00 AM PST
MIAMI — A Spanish porn site owner has sold his Twitter account to the Israeli government for an undisclosed amount.

Israel Melendez opened his @Israel Twitter account in 2007 and said he didn’t think twice about sharing an online identity with an entire country.

But as Twitter grew in popularity, so did his Tweets. Melendez, who owns porn site, said celebrities and politicians including Perez Hilton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began following his Tweets online.

In fact, he said he began getting about 20 mistaken messages a day.

"It was so flooded with messages from people who thought it belonged to the country that I couldn't use it," he said.

Then, the Israel Foreign Ministry actually reached out to him and asked for the online real estate, he decided to hand it over — for a price.

Melendez sold the account to the Israel Foreign Ministry in August, though he declined to say how much the country paid.

Some online reports said Melendez was paid up to six figures for the account, but Paul Hirschson, the Deputy Chief of Mission at Israel's Miami Consulate, said it was in "the very, very low four figures."

Melendez said he was contacted on Twitter through Prime Minister Netanyahu's account, which is run by the social media relations firm Bewick Media.

"They sent me a private message from the Netanyahu Twitter account requesting information about the account and asking me if I was interested in selling it," Melendez said.

Hirschson said only that Melendez was paid a "reasonable amount."

Twitter, however, has a policy against username cybersquatting.

"Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension,” the Twitter rules say.

But this transfer may be permissible because Melendez appears to have created the the account for his personal use and not for profit.

Hirschson said he was not aware of Twitter's policy and Melendez said, "They paid me for relinquishing the account, not for selling it."

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