Hoax tweeter revealed as man with boring day job
They call him the “hoax tweeter” but perhaps Tommaso De Benedetti just needs a more interesting job. The 43 year old Roman schoolteacher has been revealed as the man responsible for a series of false celebrity deaths posted on Twitter over the past year.
British author, JK Rowling was De Benedetti’s latest victim. She was killed off in a tweet he created and sent from a false account for novelist, John Le Carre. Before that it was Fidel Castro, Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope Benedict XVI.
Each hoax was met with varying degrees of shock and horror across the social media site, but De Benedetti likens his tweets to a game.
“Death works well on Twitter,” he told a British newspaper.
“I only target leading figures who have all the means at their disposal to respond very quickly. I would never announce the death of a lesser-known writer or my next door neighbour. I don’t want it to go too far. I’m not a crook.”
But he also claims this “hobby” highlights the inadequacies of using Twitter as a reliable news source:
“Unfortunately, journalism works on speed. False news spreads exponentially,’’ he said, pointing out that retweets by journalists lend credibility to rumours even if they are not actually published. In the end, everyone forgets what the original source was,’’ he said.
Yet this seems far too noble a cause for someone who has a long history of anonymous pranks. Posting false reports on Twitter is actually just the latest in a series of mediums used by De Benedetti to pass the time between marking school papers.
He started off giving false interviews to Italian newspapers in early 2010 and was also responsible for a collection of fake emails written between Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo to the Italian bishops’ conference in Avveniore, that made the front page of the local newspaper.
“Journalists should be more prudent and carry out all the necessary checks, particularly in local media, local radio and internet sites which fall most easily into this trap”, he said recently.
Maybe, but it could also be time for Mr De Benedettii to reconsider his teaching career and opt for something a little more creative. His considerable talents and energy are clearly going to waste.
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