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 #Mitt2012” 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.

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    Seeing how quickly these false rumors spread - to CNN - was sort of mindblowing. Then again, it probably shouldn’t have...
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    More reasons to hate @comfortablysmug. Romney was the first.
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    weather, only it’s man-made weather” - Mickey Knox, Natural Born Killers (1994) The following post is an important...
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