UPDATE: It has now been revealed that the twitter account of Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch's famously protective wife, is a spoof profile.
Controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who joined the ranks of the Twitterati earlier this week, offering opinion on everything from Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond to the biography of Steve Jobs, has used his Twitter account to proffer an endorsement of conservative firebrand Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential race.
Murdoch, who has a reputation both in the UK and the US for using his outlets to influence politicians and legislation, tweeted his support shortly before for the Iowa caucuses:
There has been no word as yet from the Santorum campaign team as to how they view the missive. Despite Murdoch's sullied reputation in the UK, his standing in the US as a captain of industry, particularly among the political right, still holds.
In recent days, Santorum has surged in the polls thanks to his strong social conservative message and is expected to do well in Tuesday's symbolic first ballot.
Before running for office, Santorum worked as a political pundit for the Murdoch-owned Fox News, though it is unknown whether the two have a personal relationship.
In a surprise move, Murdoch joined Twitter on 31 December, tweeting from @RupertMurdoch. The 80-year-old boss of News Corp has already gained more than 80,000 followers on the social network.
Despite suffering a year of turmoil, in which he was forced to close the News of the World following the phone hacking scandal, as well as appear before MPs at the commons culture select committee, the owner of The Times decided that 2012 was the right time to join the micro blogging site, which currently boasts more than 300 million users worldwide.
Murdoch's tweets have so far included:
In response to the octogenarian's sudden appearance on Twitter, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, himself a veteran of the social network with more than 8,000 tweets and 100,000 followers, posted a unusually funny welcome message:
CNN host Piers Morgan, formerly an employee of News International at the now defunct The News of the World, also laid out the 140-character red carpet:
Online rumours suggested that Wendi Deng, Murdoch's wife, was behind the notoriously technophobic newspaper magnate's tweets having also opened an account at the same time (@Wendi_Deng). Both have subsequently been verified.
To possibly counter rumours of Deng's authorship, Murdoch tweeted: “Maybe Brits have too many holidays for broke country!”, to which Deng quickly advised: "RUPERT!!! delete tweet!"
Unsurprisingly, not all users on Twitter welcomed Murdoch's arrival, with abuse ranging from comic to the outright hostile:
Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Lance Concannon, a social media expert for digital communications agency Text 100 London, said Murdoch's appearance on Twitter was unsurprising.
"Twitter provides a great channel for brands, celebrities and high profile individuals to show a more human side by sharing their thoughts in a less formal setting and engaging members of the public in conversation directly instead of speaking through stuffy corporate communications channels," he said.
"I would guess that this is a calculated move to show Murdoch's fluffier side. Judging from his tweets, it certainly seems as though he's writing them himself rather than allowing his profile to be stage-managed by his PR team. This is a double edged-sword; on the one hand it allows him to appear more genuine and sincere when expressing his opinions, but it does leave the door open for potential gaffes which could prove more damaging for his reputation."
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