The transfer game
The transfer window can be an exciting yet frustrating period of time for plenty of football fans around the world. Wanting to get the latest story and the inside scoop ahead of anyone else has become a hobby during the summer months for many.
In the football social media world it is certainly an opportunity to make a name for yourself should you get a little scoop of information before the big hitters. That can set you aside from others and grant you quite a following if you play the game correctly.
However, for those fans that love to find information as quickly as possible, it is a very dangerous place as well. Not so much dangerous to your health, but much more so to your reputation should you decide to tweet something which you found on what you thought was a reputable account.
What is an ‘ITK?’
The abbreviation ITK stands for ‘in the know.’ What this means is that someone described as such is typically associated with having inside information which they share on their social platforms. The term has evolved over time, more presently used in a negative context whereby the person being described as an ITK is a satiric accusation that they in fact know nothing and are purely claiming they do to gain attention, followers or even financial reward.
Sometimes ITKs can be anonymous accounts behind an avatar image of something which is not themselves or they can be genuine people with their legitimate name.
It is important to understand that the term ITK should not be associated with verified journalists of reputable publications. Journalists work very hard, using their hard grafted list of contacts to find information to publish and inform their loyal readers of what they have learned.
That being said, journalists can of course still be wrong. False information can be leaked to play mind games or as a negotiation tactic. Furthermore, sometimes a trusted source just gets something wrong.
An example of this, unrelated to transfers, was the inclusion of Trent Alexander-Arnold in the Euro 2020 England squad. Many well-respected outlets posted stories claiming that he was unlikely to be in the 26-man group when in the end of course he was. These accounts immediately received a lot of criticism, but in reality it was just a simple case of using some misinformation by mistake and outside of the norm.
Exclusive: Alexander-Arnold set to miss out on England’s final 26-man squad for Euro 2020. Final checks to be made on Walker and James before tomorrow night’s Uefa deadline and if no injury problems (as expected), Alexander-Arnold won’t be selected. Story: https://t.co/RuEO8ZDfH3
— James Olley (@JamesOlley) May 31, 2021
However, differentiating between some reliable accounts who are not journalists and the sarcastically named ITKs is tricky.
What benefits are there to being an ITK?
As already mentioned, the main benefits of being an ITK on social media is typically in the form of followers in high volumes in addition to large amounts of retweets and likes.
Beyond this, there is a financial benefit to someone who creates these ITK accounts. As reported by The Guardian in 2018, Twitter does not allow the buying, selling or soliciting other forms of payment for their accounts. However, in the article is mentioned how some are sold on the ‘black market.’
Twitter, however, does not permit the trading of usernames. It explicitly states: “Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension.” This does not seem to have stopped them changing hands, though.
The website Visiter used a valuation site (which has since been removed) in 2017 to check how much one of their reporters’ accounts of 6,634 followers would be worth and discovered it to be a very tidy sum.
Visiter reporter Kate Lally has been tweeting since October 2010. She has 6,634 followers and has tweeted more than 14,000 times.
According to Twalue.com, her Twitter account is worth $5,301.76 (US) which is around £4105.
Therefore when considering some accounts on football Twitter are in the tens of thousands claiming to have inside information, you can start to get an idea of the figures involved.
How to avoid being fooled by ITKs
There is ultimately no sure way to know whether or not for definite someone does or does not have an inside track or an insider feeding them information for them to tweet out.
However, there are ways in which you can differentiate between what is likely a falsehood and what has more weight towards legitimacy.
Firstly, study the account. Whilst the amount of followers is not definitive, it is a good start. People looking to grow an ITK account to sell on go through these cycles and so must start smaller before growing. Therefore an account with followers in the single-digit thousands claiming information is already a good sign as to a lack of realness. [Note: always check if the account is verified as a priority].
Secondly, cross-reference. See if there are any corresponding reports coming from reputable sources on what is being claimed. Check the location. Do those stories originate from the nation where the league/club/player is based?
Thirdly, reflect. Think if the rumour makes sense. Should this be about a player joining, is the player under a long-term contract? Has that club been linked to any players in a similar position as a sign they are looking for a replacement? Have the buying club already sold players in that position or looking to upgrade? These can also be signs that a story may be too good to be true because everything aligns so perfectly.
Something else worth paying attention to is the wording. If you find similar content, a lot of the time ITKs will have copied the story word for word from a different account, which can tend to be a dead giveaway.
A fictional example of this might be a claim that Inter Milan are interested in Hector Bellerin. Achraf Hakimi has been linked with a move away from Inter, whilst Bellerin is looking a likely departure from Arsenal. However, no reputable sources are linking the Spaniard to the Italian champions.
Finally, check their track record and how other people view the account. Do they have a good track record of calling transfers ahead of time? Is there a history of deleted tweets that people are replying to when you search their Twitter handle regarding transfers?
Be careful on social media in the world of transfers and ITKs. It is easy to get sucked into believing a story you want to be true, only to become part of the problem feeding false information spreads.