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David McNew  /  AP
Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail
Helen Popkin
updated 7/7/2010 4:28:07 PM ET 2010-07-07T20:28:07

Now that Lindsay Lohan's off to jail, sentenced to 90 days in the stripy hole, followed by 90 days in rehab for violating her DUI probation, what will become of her Twitter account?

Everything we've learned from procedural crime dramas tells us that cellular devices are not permitted in jail, and everything we've learned from high-quality cable fare such as "Oz" and "Weeds" tells us that prisoners get phones anyway.

Certainly if Lohan's Twitter flow of grammatically erroneous celebri-babble continues unabated following her July 20-check-in, guards will get the heads up on her wireless contraband. Either that or she's hired a Twitter proxy. After all, it's in LiLo's monetary interest to keep the 140 characters flowing as she and other famous Twitter shills continue to render celebrity tweets more painfully banal than ever before.

Seriously, y'all. The Twitterverse follows @lindsaylohan for bite-sized family feuds, thinly veiled cries for help and possible proof of SCRAM anklet violations. NOT this twap:

@lindsaylohan "Just scored myself a stunning Balenciaga bag from Beyond the Rack!! Got such a sick deal!! Addicted to this site!! http://bit.ly/d49jpPT Ad"

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"Sick?" "Addicted?" Really? That $10,000 tweet is practically admissible in court — if Lohan actually wrote it. Which she didn't.

Questionable adverbs and "Ad" disclaimer aside, tweets inserted into contracted Twitter timelines earn celebrities like Lohan, and famous-for-no-apparent-reason stars such as Kim Kardashian, a lot of gratis pocketbooks. If there's gold in them thar hills, somebody's going to find a way to mine it.

Good thing the Federal Trade Commission went and passed that law last year requiring netizens to clearly identify advertorials. Otherwise how would we know Kim Kardashian tweeted 24/7 about QuickTrim® to get paid — not because she just ran out of stuff to tweet about.

Apparently some celebrities are actually accidentally shilling for free. Industry aggregator Android Headlines notes that celebrities inadvertently promote Android phones all the time. Indeed, this recent tweet from pro skate god Tony Hawk might lead one to believe cash crossed palms:

@tonyhawk "You know your kids have been using your phone when the last search term in your Android Market is 'poo.'"

How is that not a product placement cleverly disguised as a cute kid anecdote? As if anyone would name-check his phone unless it's an iPhone — or maybe a 1959 Bell System Princess phone. Still, Hawk is pretty upfront about the many, many, many, many, many … many products he shills for, so maybe not …

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Anyhoo, despite the FTC's disclosure ruling and Twitter's May clampdown on third-party applications placing ads in the microblogging service's timeline, celebrities remain a commodity within Twitter's own "sponsored trends."

Note Tuesday's hubbub as LeBron James officially entered the Twittersphere. This is by no means an organic move on the NBA superstar's part — that dude is no free-tweeting The_Real_Shaq.

That same day, the NBA paid to have "LeBron James" appear as the official "promoted trend" at the bottom of Twitter's top trend list. As users clicked on that key piece of real estate, "LeBron James" quickly started trending on the user-designated trend list.

No doubt "LeBron James" and other NBA-associated key words will start trending naturally as the NBA season approaches and James, currently a free agent, closes in on picking a team. (Apparently, like the World Cup business, people care about that particular sport or whatever.) Gaming the system, however, gave the NBA get a jump start on directing Twitter users toward its own website, rather than other sports news outlets.

Nudging the zeitgeist toward a pre-chosen topic is still a little creepy … actually it's a lot creepy. All this advertising is devaluing the already negligible value of Twitter tweets. And we just can't have that. Not without getting paid. Frankly, if we're following Kim Kardashian on Twitter, we deserve to get money. Not the other way around.

Follow Helen A. S. Popkin on Twitteror join her on Facebook. What are you, chicken?

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