Someone's pulled off an elaborate prank on former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller. They built a replica of the Times' website and took passages of an email Keller sent defending Wikileaks and wrote an entire, completely fake Op-Ed.
The fake op-ed appeared on Sunday morning. The website the piece is hosted on looks and feels almost exactly like the real New York Times' website, but it's just a painstakingly detailed reproduction. The only hint that it's a fake is in the URL, where the word "opinion" appears before nytimes.com. Here's a screenshot of the story, just in case it gets taken down. Keller yelled, sort of, about the fake story on Twitter Sunday morning.
Just about everyone was fooled at first. Times' tech writer Nick Bilton even tweeted a link to the story on Sunday morning, until he discovered the Bill Keller Twitter account he found the story from was a fake. The person who set it up used an upper-case I and a lower-case L to hide the fact the account was fake. When viewed on Twitter's iPhone application, the two usernames appear to be the same.
The op-ed stole pieces of an email defending Wikileaks Keller wrote to GigaOm's Matthew Ingram. It gives the piece a distinctly Keller-ian feel, and at least temporarily throws off any detection of a fake.
Zeynep Tufekci looked up the info on the URL and discovered it was registered back in March, implying whoever's behind the stunt has been planning this for a while. They never could have predicted Keller would write an email defending Wikileaks, but they have been planning to misrepresent him for months.
Storify's Josh Stearn's credited the first links to the fake story to Wikileaks and Anonymous, who haven't taken credit for the prank just yet, but we wouldn't be surprised about that either.
The best part of the story, we think, is that Keller's taking the whole thing in stride. He wrote a pretty great email to AllThingsD's Peter Kafka:
Ah, the social media hall of mirrors. Yes, the “WL Post-Postscript” Op-Ed is a fake. (Though it steals a few lines from my exchange a few days ago with Matthew Ingram, which was real.) My tweet calling the fake tweet a fake was real. This tweet assuring you that the tweet about the fake tweet is not fake is also real. All clear now, right? Good. It’s been real.
Does your head hurt? Ours does. We'll update this if they bust whoever it was.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.