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:

https://twitter.com/nickbilton/status/229590163494424577

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:

https://twitter.com/nickbilton/status/229592587802144768

https://twitter.com/nickbilton/status/229592983455023104

Update:

WikiLeaks now claims credit for the hoax.

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