Social Media

From Newspaper Hoaxster to Twitter Hoaxster

A bridge between Old Media fake news and New Media fake news


As aggravating as the media flurry over "fake news" can be, it has had at least one clearly positive effect: We've gotten to read a bunch of entertaining profiles of online hoaxsters. The latest to reach my eyes is The Washington Post's piece today on Tommaso Debenedetti, the Italian man behind this admittedly inspired bit of fakery:

That wasn't Debenedetti's first counterfeit Twitter account: He has created phony feeds for everyone from Don DeLillo to Bashar al-Assad. He has also managed to trick various media outlets into falsely reporting that one celebrity or another—Cormac McCarthy, Pedro Almodóvar, Pope Benedict XVI—has died.

But this isn't merely another lesson in the dangers of believing everything you see on social media. It's a bridge between Old Media fakery and New Media fakery. Until 2010, you see, Debenedetti was a professional journalist, a man who published a series of interviews with a series of eminences in a series of newspapers until someone figured out that he was making them all up. Having been exposed as a fraud, he dropped the reporter act and made fraud his art form.

Compare his earlier career with his current antics, and you'll discover another lesson: While it may now be easier than ever before to spray lies into the noösphere, it's also easier than ever before to trace and debunk them. It didn't take long, after all, to confirm that his Paglia persona was a prank. Some of his other deceptions have lasted longer, but then, so did his newspaper career.

NEXT: CBO Says the GOP's Updated Obamacare Repeal Bill Would Be Worse for the Deficit

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  1. So the point is to get journalists to bite? Seems like it flirts with worthwhile. News organizations really need to stop reporting on – about – social media. Or news consumers need to stop accepting it.

  2. Meet the new media same as the old media

  3. I hope someone interviews Robert Thompson about this.

  4. My local (paper) rag devotes at least 20% and at times well over 50% of every front page to articles regarding how Trump is a big poopyhead. Every day.
    He is a big poopyhead, but there are other issues worthy of attention, sort of like how moonbeam/D legislature hoped the suckers in other states would pay for CA’s socialized medicine, or perhaps how moonbeam/D legislature totally ignored infrastructure (and ANY increased water storage) in deference to making sure the votes from the union workers were bought with taxpayer money (yes, the choo-choo, on examination, is just a union hiring hall on wheels).
    So while this guy is easily ID’d as a fake and it’s sort of amusing, there is other ‘fake news’ masquerading as ‘real news’ that is far worse.
    And maybe Reason could direct some attention there.

    1. My local (paper) rag devotes at least 20% and at times well over 50% of every front page to articles regarding how Trump is a big poopyhead.

    1. I’m hoping that one day Reason will do an article on what “connections to the Russkies” means and how it might possibly have had any effect on the election. Seems a bit more interesting that some twitter-twit.
      Perhaps, just perhaps, an examination would cause Tony to put a sock in it with regard to the constant claim of “TREASON!” (as if he knew what the word meant).

      1. You seem frustrated that Reason won’t assist you in your endless, senseless and futile verbal battles with strangers on the internet.

  5. This site’s comment section is fucking terrible now. Every single fucking thread is endless feeding of the same three trolls as long as they’re awake to shitpost.

    1. Jesus, how fucking hard is it to even GET A COMMENT TO POST on this POS anymore?? Three attempts for the last one, and it’s the MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT EVERYWHERE ANYONE READS THIS SITE.

      1. The world mourns the irreparable loss of your wisdom.

  6. Hmm uh? Reason er, Jesse I don’t get it, what is this,? Please explain to me why I should care about;
    a) somebody on the twitter who no one including me has ever heard of….
    b) talking about somebody no one cares about???

    No offense intended but fer fuck sakes this is just stupid.

  7. Oddly absent from this parable is the role reputation plays in legitimate journalism.

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