A fake article putting the New York Times' substantial editorial heft in support of Wikileaks made rounds over the weekend, fooled many a reader and even at least one NYT staffer before founder Julian Assange's organization came forward to take credit for the hoax.
The faux editorial was presented as a column by former Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, and defended the controversial organization during a period in which if faces deteriorating support and its founder remains mired in legal troubles. It was such an accurate duplicate it fooled many readers and at least one New York Times Staffer.
Keller was quick to hit Twitter and disavow writing the column, before its actual author was known.
"THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS. EMPHASIS ON "FAKE. "AS IN, NOT MINE," he wrote. That's his emphasis added in caps-lock.
The tweet prompted a few of his followers to request he tone it down and stop shouting.
The fake editorial was accompanied by a faux Bill Keller on Twitter, who tweeted his chicanery. The story was then retweeted by reporter Nick Bilton, who later deleted the tweet when he realized his boss didn't actually write any of it.
Wikileaks revealed itself as the source of the fake editorial on Sunday, via its Twitter feed.
"Yes. We admit it. WikiLeaks (Assange & co) and our great supporters where behind the successful NYTimes banking blockade hoax on @nytkeller," the group wrote.
The page was posted on an "opinion-nytimes.com" URL, and linked back to the actual New York Times site in all the appropriate places.
The faux Keller presented a departure from the real deal's, who in February wrote a dismissive column about Wikileaks. The weekend's hoax saw Keller have a fake change of heart.
"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," the fake editorial read.
Wikileaks' founder Assange has been ducking out in London's Ecuadorian Embassy for a month, avoiding authorities in Sweden seeking to question him on sexual abuse charges.
The organization later tweeted it was motivated to post the editorial after the newspaper has refused to cover its fiscal straits, which began after Master Card, PayPal and other sites stopped processing donations to the Web site.
"What is not a hoax is that WikiLeaks is under illegal economic censorship by US financial insitutions and NYTimes says nothing. The rats," WikiLeaks tweeted.