If there is one place on the Internet where reality and faux personalities reign free, it is Twitter – the rapid pace of the constantly updating network allows mistakes to proliferate tenfold, sending shock-waves across the web much faster than ever before. And, this morning, Bill Keller, the former Editor of the New York Times, unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way.
It all started when Nick Bilton, the newspaper’s top tech writer, tweeted last night at around 10:30pm:
“Important piece by @nytkeIler defending @WikiLeaks and a plea to protect the First Amendment: opinion-nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opi…”
(We would paste the entire tweet but it has been deleted by Bilton since then).
The link posted advertises a column by Bilton’s ex-boss, entitled ‘WikiLeaks, A Post-Post Script,’ that apparently defended the notorious hacker-leaks organization led by Julian Assange as the group falls into financial troubles. Except the piece attached was completely false… Bill Keller said so himself.
As the piece spread across the Web, the Times’s Executive Editor put his foot down and called out the false nature of the work penned in his name:
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
Bilton immediately apologized for unknowingly tweeting out a fake link to thousands of followers, remarking,
I just deleted a Tweet sent late last night that was from a fake NYT Bill Keller account.
— Nick Bilton (@nickbilton) July 29, 2012
But a few picked up to its suspicious nature before Keller confirmed it: if you follow that link, you’ll notice that the URL is ‘opinion-nytimes.com’ – on the website, the real URL is nytimes.com/opinion. Oh, you techies. Actually, we just realized how ironic that is since Bilton is the top tech writer. Ouch.
Anyway, as this story continues, it’s safe to say we have no idea what’s going on anymore on Twitter. Soon after Keller shouted out that the piece was not his, his account sent out his a tweet that read “I am now a world expert in dressage. Ask me anything.” And then it was deleted in an instance, indicating that hackers might be behind the strange message. And maybe even Bilton’s tweet of the fake piece.
As a strange ally/critic of Assange’s organization, it makes sense why hackers would want to take over Keller’s account – to voice out something in his name that defends WikiLeaks is powerful coming from the guy who published Cablegate and other confidential documents and then turned his back on Assange’s mission statement.
But, if that’s the case, don’t do it on Twitter. Because we have no idea what’s real or what’s Rekall in less than 140 characters.