With the help of social media, news now spreads faster than ever. And sometimes that speed comes at the expense of fact-checking or even making sure an article is real at all. That's what happened this weekend when a fake opinion piece purported to be written by former New York Times editor Bill Keller made its way around the Web Saturday night. The article titled, "WikiLeaks: A post postscript," was a rousing defense of the group that is usually known more for its document releases than for pulling online pranks.
There were a few reasons the article appeared to be the real deal. The page contained links to the Times' website and the site itself, opinion-nytimes.com, sounded official. It was even tweeted out using a fake Twitter account that was similar to Keller's. The piece even fooled many journalists including the Time's own tech writer Nick Bilton who re-tweeted it to his 120,000 Twitter followers.
Bill Keller used his actual Twitter account to set the record straight on Sunday morning, saying, in all caps, "THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS. EMPHASIS ON FAKE. AS IN, NOT MINE."
Wikileaks has taken credit for the hoax on its own Twitter account. It will be interesting to see what effect it has on their future. Jay Rosen, an NYU journalism professor, predicted considerable fallout. He tweeted, "I say it's a nadir for Wikileaks...Their ship was launched on the sea of verification. They just sunk it. For attention."
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