Someone Created a Pretty Convincing Fake NYT Op-Ed Defending WikiLeaks

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Bill Keller. (Scott Gries/Getty Images) Photo: Scott Gries/2008 Getty Images

Those people who woke up today and checked Twitter before (or rather than) opening up their New York Times were treated to what appeared to be a  rather impassioned defense of WikiLeaks by former Times executive editor Bill Keller. While the piece acknowledges his "turbulent relationship with WikiLeaks and its Guru-In-Chief Julian Assange," it goes on to say that:

You don’t have to embrace Assange as a kindred spirit to believe that what he did in publishing those cables falls under the protection of the First Amendment. [...] I’ve said repeatedly, in print and in a variety of public forums, that I would regard an attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks’ publication of these documents as an attack on all of us, and I believe the mainstream media should come to his defense.

Turns out these two sentences actually were written by Keller, but not in the Times — they were sent in an e-mail to GigaOM's Matthew Ingram about four days ago. Everything else about the op-ed, however, is a hoax. As is the incredibly convincing webpage, which is not at the regular Times domain but rather at the slightly tweaked www.opinion-nytimes.com, which was registered back on March 30. The Bill Keller Twitter account that first tweeted the story is also fake — perceptive Flickrer qthrul noticed it lacked the little blue "verified" symbol, and that "Bill" was spelled not with two lower-case l's but with an upper-case i and a lower-case l.

Keller has since come out (in all caps, on Twitter) to denounce the op-ed, and later sent an e-mail 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.

As for who's behind this little bit of media trickery: Storify's Josh Stearns tracked two of the earliest re-tweets of the story to WikiLeaks- and Anonymous-related Twitter accounts, though so far no one has stepped forward to claim their work.