How One Well-Connected Pseudonymous Twitter Spread Fake News About Hurricane Sandy
by Andrew Kaczynski
The twitter user @comfortablysmug is one of a handful of pseudonymous Manhattan professionals who keep their widely-followed Twitter voices separate from their careers. His bio describes him as “My Interests: Finance, Gin, Politics, Books, Food, Fine Clothing, Meeting Strangers ” and links to a Romney campaign donation page of the sort that credits bundlers for the cash they’ve brought in.
His 6,000 followers include political and business reporters, and he’ll occasionally tweet of getting a drink with Business Insider’s Joe Wiesenthal; once with BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith.
And in the chaos around Hurricane Sandy, he veered into new territory: Trying to trick his media followers, and their followers and readers in turn, with fake news. He reported, falsely, on a total blackout in Manhattan, on a flood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and other things that didn’t happen.
Two of his tweets garnered more than 500 retweets. One drew a rebuke from ConEd’s official Twitter account.
Twitter’s self-correction mechanism — rebukes and rebuttals from knowledgeable sources — shut down each rumor, but not until at least one, the flood claim, had bled widely into the television media.
@comfortablysmug didn’t respond immediately to an inquiry, via Twitter direct message, as to his motives.