A John Banks impersonator who bemused followers online with oddball policies and flippant comments could soon be shut down after the real Mayor's campaign team took offence.

A fake profile for Mr Banks was created on the social networking website Twitter, using a picture of the Auckland Mayor and the account name johnbanksmayor.

A visitor to the site might quickly realise that the comments were not made by an actual politician. Speaking on his environmental policy, the fake Mr Banks said: "I prefer penguins to people. This means equal opportunity employment for penguins."

But several Twitter users did not realise the satire, and were alarmed to find that a Super City mayoral candidate endorsed a "boring, lifeless CBD" and "lower rates ... at the [expense] of transport, business, quality of life, community, people".

One user, Kristina O'Neale from Pukekohe, said she was appalled when the Auckland Mayor apparently told her to "Vote for whoever you like".

Mr Banks' campaign team has laid a complaint with Twitter, asking that the account be removed or renamed as a fake or satirical site.

"If it's a parody or satire website and clearly marked as such, there is no problem," said spokesman Aaron Bhatnagar. "But it's a genuine case of someone impersonating John Banks ... so we've put in a complaint to Twitter's management people.

"Clearly this is someone who is up to unpleasant political mischief. It's not a big deal, and most people ... would quickly realise that it was a fake account."


John Banks is not the first and is unlikely to be the last person to have his identity hijacked online.

Imposters have made a sport of imitating politicians, celebrities and companies, leading one internet commentator to say you haven't made it until you've had a fake Twitter account opened in your name.

God, Charles Darwin and Britney Spears all have a bogus presence on the internet.

A fake account was set up for Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Willie Apiata. The thread has 1400 followers, and includes comments such as: "I'm not really a hero. I'm just a man working in the desert. With a medal."

One account, with 190,000 followers, pretends to be a public relations expert for BP. Comments include: "Reports of 79 per cent of the oil remaining in the Gulf [of Mexico] are false according to the pie chart we made ourselves."

Twitter introduced a verification system for celebrity accounts last year.