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Wikileaks Punks NYT Editor Bill Keller in Effort to Highlight Donation Blockade
Over the weekend, an op-ed by New York Times editor Bill Keller defending Wikileaks founder Julian Assange surfaced that was, in fact, a hoax so well executed that it fooled even the Time's own technology writer.
Though the ruse fooled many as it first made the rounds on social media outlets, mainly Twitter, it was soon discovered by Bill Keller himself and he was quick to disavow the contents of the editorial:
THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS.EMPHASIS ON "FAKE. "AS IN, NOT MINE.— Bill Keller (@nytkeller) July 29, 2012
Shortly later, Wikileaks took credit for the stunt on their twitter account:
Yes. We admit it. WikiLeaks (Assange & co) and our great supporters where behind the successful NYTimes banking blockade hoax on @nytkeller.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 29, 2012
A following tweet by Wikileaks seemed to indicate that the effort to push the fake op-ed was a publicity stunt designed to call attention to the economic blockade being levied against the organization by US-based banks and credit cards companies:
What is not a hoax, is that WikiLeaks is under illegal economic censorship by US financial insitutions and NYTimes says nothing. The rats.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 29, 2012
The Guardian explores how the operatives behind the hoax navigated Twitter to generate credibility for their fake op-ed:
The fake article was distributed through Twitter using a couple of routes. One appeared to be via Keller’s own official Twitter feed with the handle @nytkeIler.
A closer look at that feed, though, reveals that the handle @nytkeIler was subtly misspelt to confuse the reader. The apparent two Ls in the middle were in fact spelled with a capital i and a lower case L as in @nytkeiler.
The same ruse was used to post a fake tweet under Keller’s name saying “I am now a world expert in dressage. Ask me anything.”
The second route was through Keller’s genuine Twitter feed. A reference to the fake article by @journalismfest was retweeted under Keller’s official name, suggesting that his Twitter feed may have been hacked.
Though many supportive of Wikileaks applauded the ingenuity and creativeness of the stunt, others -- even those sympathetic to the poor treatment they think the organization has received -- were critical of the hoax and wondered if it didn't hurt the organization's credibility. As the Atlantic Wire's Adam Martin reports:
ProPublica reporter Charles Ornstein tweeted on Sunday night, "When @Wikileaks admits to perpetrating hoaxes, its credibility is shot. How can its documents be trusted?" And NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen chimed in on Monday: "I say it's a nadir for Wikileaks... Their ship was launched on the sea of verification. They just sunk it. For attention." It was a good prank in that it generated a lot of talk, but now something of a hangover appears to be setting in.
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