NYT columnist falls for fake NYT op-ed; Update: He explains how he got duped; Update: WikiLeaks claims credit


The tweet above is from the New York Times’ lead technology columnist, Nick Bilton. He posted it at 10:30 pm last night

It was followed this morning by this tweet from New York Times writer (and former executive editor) Bill Keller:

Bilton is supposed to know something about the Internet. As one Twitter user pointed out, the hoax op-ed piece was not posted on the New York Times’ domain (nytimes.com). It’s a significant oversight on the part of Bilton:

If it’s any consolation to Bilton, he wasn’t the only prominent journalist who got snookered:


A lot of people who fell for the hoax are feeling a bit embarrassed this morning:

Then again, maybe it’s one of those “fake but accurate” things?

How long has this been in the works?

Updates: Bilton has deleted the tweet in which he publicized the hoax op-ed. Here is his tweet announcing the deletion:

Of course, this makes no sense. (Ed. note: Actually, it does make sense. See our updates below.) The tweet that Bilton deleted this morning was sent by Bilton from his (Bilton’s) own account, not someone else’s. What “fake Bill Keller account” is Bilton referring to?

Is Bilton saying that he was unable to distinguish between Bill Keller’s real Twitter account and a fake one?

On a related note, something funny may be going on with Keller’s (real) Twitter account.

For one thing, at around 10 am eastern time, Keller claimed to be an expert on dressage:

That tweet has been deleted.

Also, at about 9:30 am eastern time Keller retweeted the hoax op-ed:

It’s possible Keller was just trying to call attention to the hoax op-ed in order to debunk it. But is also seems possible that someone else has gained access to Keller’s account. Twitchy will continue to monitor the story and will update this post as more facts come in.

* * *

Mystery solved?

Re-reading Bilton’s tweet, above we see that he attributed the op-ed hoax to @nytkeIler as opposed to @nytkeller. (Look closely. The first “l” in “keller” is a capital I.)

When we go to @nytkeIler, we get a “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” message. Perhaps the page was populated last night when Bilton published his tweet.

In any case, it appears that Bilton, the lead technology columnist for the New York Times, was unable to distinguish a fake Bill Keller Twitter account from the real one.

* * *

Bilton has provided more details, confirming what we wrote above:

He elaborates on Flickr:

The account above looks real, right? Bill Keller’s name, photo and URL are all correct. Most importantly, his Twitter handle reads: @nytkeller.

Well, it turns out this is actually a fake Twitter account.

After suspecting something was off with the account — namely that it didn’t have a little blue “verified” symbol next to it and didn’t show an accurate follower count — I discovered that the two “ll”s in the Twitter handle were actually a capital “i” and lowercase “L.” So in Twitter’s app, it looks like a capital “ll” when in reality it spells his name with an “il.” I notified someone at Twitter late last night (see the timestamp of the screenshot) and asked if this was a Twitter bug, or a fake account and they said they would investigate. It turns out, it was the latter.

* * *

Bilton says he notified Twitter immediately of his concerns:


Why, then, didn’t he post anything to Twitter? He left up the link to the hoax op-ed for about eight hours. We asked Bilton and to his credit he replied:




WikiLeaks now claims credit for the hoax.

  • http://twitter.com/Caterino Caterino

    Glad to help

  • celsma

    There are very few technology writers who actually know diddly squat. Not surprised at all. Main problem is that techies are notoriously bad writers. So the world settles for know-nothings because they are innately capable of dumbing down complex concepts. They just happen to get those complex concepts wrong while they are at it, but who cares, their readers wouldn’t get it anyway. Also, they are notoriously unashamed of advertising for the highest bidders. In the end, we get neither journalism nor technical accuracy. Just marketing.

  • radjahshelduck

    “In any case, it appears that Bilton, the lead technology columnist for the New York Times, was unable to distinguish a fake Bill Keller Twitter account from the real one.” Yeah, well that kind of reminds me of the Monty Python commercial parody with Michael Palin as the huckster who exclaims “Our tests show that nine out of ten housewives can’t tell Whizzo Butter from a dead crab!”

  • Joe Hilger

    It would appear, the best course of action for Republicans, Conservatives, T.E.A Party participants should be NOT to respond any “NEWS” reported by any of Obama’s sycophant media outlets, for at least for 24 hours.

    Hey, it’s exactly what the sycophant media outlets have been doing with ANY real NEWS associated with #FraudObama, Democrats, Progressives, and/or Liberals, i.e. economy, unemployment, deficit, debt, etc.. In so doing providing a time lag in order to created an alternate “story line” to the real NEWS, i.e. spin.
    Prior to our SCOTUS informing us of the facts and the truth, how long did the Liberally college-educated and paid journalistic Democrats, Progressives, Liberals involved upon reporting the PPAC ACT, fully aware it was in fact the #ObamanationTAX?

    Seemingly, this incident could be a precursor to positioning anyone associated with Republicans, Conservatives, T.E.A Party participants into being called liars, and purveyors of prevarications. Thus, essentially “leveling” the playing field for #FraudObama, et als. on the subject of lying to WE. the People since January of 2007 on a whole host of subject and issues.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6Y3TVBZRVEGT3PZOO4XHG7COQE tunja

      What is a T.E.A Party? I know what the Tea Party is, can’t figure the acronymn

      • D3LN3GRO

        taxed. enough. already. im pretty sure they are one in the same tho.

  • Alec F. Russo

    Clearly the NYT has no need or time for facts- NYT’ve been ‘above’ facts and accuracy for a long time now.

  • Usermaim

    Wait…Web URLs (no apostrophe required) DO show up in Twitter iPhone apps…am I wrong??

  • BeeKaaay

    What’s the difference between the New Yawk Slimes real account and a fake account?

    Both spout propaganda so I can’t tell the difference :)

  • http://twitter.com/drefman Dref

    Sorry, but disseminating stolen top secret security documents does not fall under the 1st Amendment. Can’t believe the WikiTwits and their apologists are still trying to make the ridiculous claim that it does..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000363328649 JOe Dutra

    I don’t read their real stuff or their fake stuff.