You may have seen our earlier debunking of a fake Twitter account that was announcing the death of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
The Tweeter has since confirmed his identity:
By day, De Benedtti, 43, is a mild-mannered Italian and history grammar school teacher in Rome who shows up to major interviews with his young children.
By night, he has managed to fool the world’s most important news outlets with fake emails and Twitter accounts, an ongoing project he says is designed to highlight flaws in modern news sourcing.In an interview with the Guardian (itself a victim of his hoaxes) last March, Tommaso De Benedetti explained his motives.
“Social media is the most unverifiable information source in the world but the news media believes it because of its need for speed,” he said.
He apparently works by maintaining just a few accounts to accumulate followers to add legitimacy, but swapping out the relevant biographical information — the V. Kolokotsev account, for instance, has just 9 Tweets.
Ammong his other “achievements”
- Getting the International Herald Tribune to publish an op-ed “signed” by Italian writer Umberto Eco
- Having the Guardian publish fake tweets from Assad denying the veracity of leaked emails
- A faked email from Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo to the Italian bishops’ conference newspaper Avvenire praising the Pope was splashed on the front page
- De Benedetti has used a fake account for Spanish finance minister Cristóbal Montoro, as a vehicle for numerous announcements. “Montoro has repeated that the account is not real but 3,000 people still follow it,” he told the Guardian.
And from the Guardian piece, five of his more notorious fake Tweets (all of which have since been deleted). Indeed, he once told the New Yorker, “”I would like to be Italy’s champion of the lie.”
- @CardBertone: His holiness Benedict XVI has passed away. We announce the news with great pain and consternation. 8 March 2012
- @PresHamidKarzai: The attack agains Afghan civ is an act of war. 12 March
- @presMarioMonti: The news of the death of Fidel Castro has been confirmed to me by EU vicepresident Olli Rehn. 6 March
- @MinistroMontoro: The Spanish government announces the death of the director Pedro Almodovar. 23 March
- @PresAssadSyria: Documents published yesterday by a Uk newspaper are hoaxes created agaist Syria and my family. 19 March
“Twitter works well for deaths,” he said.
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