Israel Strikes Deal With Porn Site Owner for Twitter Account

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Until last month, Israel Melendez, a porn site owner living in Miami, had a star-studded following on Twitter.

He kept his account, @Israel, private, but said celebrities and politicians, including Perez Hilton and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed his tweets online.

Those online followers were treated to what Melendez says were mostly private conversations.

"Since it was a private account and no one could look inside without my permission, I talked there about private things with my closest friends," Melendez told ABCNews.com in an e-mail interview.

When he opened the account in 2007, Twitter was so small he didn't think much about sharing an online identity with an entire country. But as Twitter grew in popularity, he started receiving 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.

So, when his digital doppelganger (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, who owns the pornography site Greenshines.com, 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.

The Israel Consulate's Hirschson said only that Melendez was paid a "reasonable amount."

"He probably went to a nice restaurant with his girlfriend or wife or friend and had a nice meal, and depending upon how many bottles of wine they drank that night they may have finished the whole check or had a little bit left over for lunch," he said.

While both parties seem satisfied with the deal, the transaction appears to violate Twitter's user agreement.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABCNews.com, but according to its support pages, username squatting is prohibited by the Twitter Rules.

"Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension," Twitter says on its site.

Melendez: Paid for Relinquishing the Account, Not for Selling It

This transfer may be permissible because Melendez appears to have created 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."

Hirschson said that as Israel's Foreign Ministry took stock of its social media platforms and tried to establish uniformity between its various offices around the world, it realized that Melendez owned the @Israel account and decided to contact him.

"We decided quite some time ago that social media -- Twitter, Facebook, of course, the websites and various other channels -- are a critical channel of communication to the public," he said. "Specifically with respect to Twitter, it made sense that the state of Israel would use the name Israel."

He said the ministry exchanged a few e-mails with Melendez and then invited him to the consulate in Miami. When he handed them the password to the account, they handed him the money.

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