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.

Still very much alive. Photo: Courier Mail

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.

Before adding:

“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.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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12 comments

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    • Markus says:

      11:37am | 07/01/13

      “Yet this seems far too noble a cause for someone who has a long history of anonymous pranks.”
      Even if there is some nobility in the action, one cannot deny the immense, albeit slightly immature, satisfaction in showing up the lack of journalistic standards on display all too often nowadays.

    • Meph says:

      11:49am | 07/01/13

      Oh I dunno, can you really blame the guy when “journalists” don’t check their sources?

      I’d almost call it a public service!

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:57am | 07/01/13

      I applaud him. Journalistic integrity is a long-forgotten ideal. It’s now a joke. There is little fact-checking and mostly it is just copy-paste someone else’s announcement and maybe source a quote from an opposing group.

      As for finding alternate means of employment, I didn’t know there were interesting jobs out there. Occasionally, I’ve scoured seek.com.au for “Supreme Commander of Planet Earth”, “Sith Lord”, “millionaire playboy”, “boobs inspector” and “chronic TV-watcher and web-surfer” to no avail so I stick with what I have.

    • James1 says:

      12:52pm | 07/01/13

      “There is little fact-checking and mostly it is just copy-paste someone else’s announcement and maybe source a quote from an opposing group.”

      I have actually had this happen.  I recently drafted a media release that we put out at work, and it was immediately picked up by three major Australian news websites, two major broadsheets and a few radio stations.  The websites all directly copied the text of the release, the radio stations quoted liberally from the statistics I presented, and the broadsheets did both, as well as briefly quoting an academic expert.

      On interesting jobs, even though I don’t spend much time watching tv or looking at boobs (at work, anyway), I find mine very interesting about 75% of the time.  I always thought this was the norm - that people seek the jobs they find interesting and that pay well, and go after those jobs.  I only recently discovered that most people do jobs they hate.  Now I understand why everyone is so tense and angry all the time.

    • Colin says:

      12:55pm | 07/01/13

      @ Tubesteak

      “...I didn’t know there were interesting jobs out there….”

      Really? Been living under that rock for long? Or - if you have a degree -  is it that you simply did what most people who go on to tertiary education in this country do; wasted it on an ‘Arts’ degree..?

      There are PLENTY of ‘interesting’ jobs out there - for those that are suitably qualified.

    • Tubesteak says:

      02:41pm | 07/01/13

      Colin
      I didn’t waste it on an arts degree. I despise such a vapid waste of navel-gazing time. I’m a qualified lawyer and accountant and even though I know people in many diverse fields have never known anyone who found their job interesting and definitely not the all-important mix of interesting and well-paying. Studies have shown that 80% of people dislike their job

    • Colin says:

      03:09pm | 07/01/13

      @  Tubesteak

      “Studies have shown that 80% of people dislike their job..”

      James1 and I must be in the minority then grin

    • Don't moan ... do it says:

      05:41pm | 07/01/13

      Well, Tubesteak, it’s hardly surprising you didn’t know interesting jobs existed out there if you are a lawyer/accountant. Only semi-joking ...

      I myself went to university at the age of 32 after realizing I’d rather be dead than work another 35 years at a boring job. I’d worked my way up to “good money”, but middle management makes poking your eyes out with a stick seem a more desirable option.

      Getting my bachelor’s and master’s in computer science (full-time external student while still working) was the best thing I’ve ever done, both professionally and personally. I enjoy my job so much now that I still get out of bed excited at what the day will bring - after 3 years on the job. The field I’m in (computer security) is so quickly changing, engaging, and so “high stakes” that sometimes I can’t believe I’m actually getting paid to do it.

      Of course, what is interesting for me might be boring to the next person. However, my point is that it is never too late to take the bull by the horns and control just what the hell you are going to do for 40 - 60 years of your life.

    • iansand says:

      01:07pm | 07/01/13

      He has broken the cardinal rule of media - do not take the piss out of journalists.  In spite of the crap they dish out to others they are delicate little flowers and their egos bruise easily.

    • Jeff says:

      01:36pm | 07/01/13

      So if you’re the friend of someone famous who is devastated by the news that your friend has died, and you are not in a position to immediately verify it, then your feelings don’t count? 
      However if you’re the friend of this tosser’s next door neighbour, you won’t be subjected to his tormenting little game.
      Way to go de-humanising famous people!

    • Cars says:

      04:27pm | 07/01/13

      The things is, when you find out your friend is still alive, the feeling of relief will outweigh the devastation, and you may even value your friend more as a consequence. Seems like a net positive hoax to me.

    • 108 degrees Fahrenheit says:

      05:46pm | 07/01/13

      happy new year 2013 to all !!

 

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