Twitter’s “serial killer” confesses: “journalists still use social networks as a reliable press source”

The “murderer” of literary celebrities on social networks It is loose. Among his victims, the Nobel Prize for Literature appears Mario Vargas Llosa and Kazuo Ishigurothe perennial Nobel candidate after the death of Jorge Luis Borges, Haruki Murakami, and the controversial Michel Houellebecq. Professor of Italian and history and literary critic born in Rome in February 1969, Tommaso Debenedetti executed in fake accounts of publishers and press agencies created by him ex profeso international figures such as Isabel Allende, John Grisham, Hugo Chávez, the Dalai Lama, Pedro Almodóvar and former Pope Benedict XVI. Long false interviews, although plausible, to international writers that were published in Italian media for ten years are also attributed to him.. His imaginary reports that transcended the most are, among others, Derek Walcott, Mijail Gorbachev, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Noam Chomsky and Philip Roth, who came out to deny the veracity of the phrases attributed to him (some with criticism of then US President Barack Obama). This morning, he “murdered” the Argentine writer Claudia Piñeiro in a false account of the Alfaguara publishing house.

Debenedetti communicated with LA NACION from a Gmail account and, to certify the authenticity of his identity, attached a photograph of the passport issued by the Italian Republic; he clarified that, “for various reasons”, he preferred not to share recent photos of himself. The Twitter serial killer got in touch after this newspaper reported on the false (and second) death of Murakami announced on Twitter on the 7th of this month. “I am responsible for these fake news, and I create false accounts since 2012″, he confessed via email. Like many other protagonists of stories that appear digitally in the media, Debenedetti wanted to know if his would be published on paper. She also anticipated that she would “kill” the author of Thursday’s widows.

In 2014, on a fake Facebook page attributed to the mysterious Italian writer Elena Ferrante, Debenedetti revealed the alleged identity of the author of the wonderful friend, although in a few hours the page was suspended due to protests from the Ferrante publishing house (two years later, and on Twitter, the true identity of the person who wrote the novels and stories was revealed). In the trial The civilization of the show, Vargas Llosa – whom Debenedetti made him express bitter criticism (false but plausible) against the Argentine government in 2011 and whom he assassinated on several occasions on Twitter – calls him “hero of the civilization of the spectacle”. “Obviously, with a negative connotation – admits Debenedetti -. But I think his idea is legitimate and his theory about the ‘death of culture’ is very important and interesting”.

The Twitter “assassin” began his lethal activity between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. “It was like a game -he remembers-. I liked creating the fake account of a famous Swedish writer, Henning Mankell, and within a few days the account had almost four thousand followers. Mankell himself spoke of that account, denying that it was his with an important English newspaper. Creating other false accounts, in the first months of 2012, I discovered a very interesting reality in the relationship between journalism and social networks in the treatment of death. When the death of a famous personality is announced online, especially through Twitter, the news spreads like dust, quickly and without verification. The desire of the media to be the first to announce the death of a famous person is the reason why, in these ten years of activity on Twitter, always a newspaper or a radio or a press agency publishes the lie as truth”. Until now, he has not had any legal problems for announcing false deaths on social networks.

-To what extent is your online activity linked to literature?

-This is clearly a literary game Today, in our society that lives in social networks and on the web, the border between truth and lies, reality and fiction, does not exist. We don’t know if an account is real or not, we don’t know if we talk by chat or mail with a real person or with an impersonator, we don’t know if an image is real or an effect created with the internet. This shows a new and very important reality: fiction that in the past was found in writers’ novels is now part of our lives, and tweets, blogs, Facebook pages constitute a new type of “novel”, of story where reality and lies are totally confused.

-Does something similar happen with media news?

-Journalism also often becomes a fusion of truth and fiction. Like in a novel. This is the reason why the main “victims” of false profiles and false news are the writers, who become privileged characters in this new fiction that is the world of social networks. Through these false news, a reality is discovered. Through a fake Twitter account of the Italian translator Anita Raja, I revealed in 2016 that she was none other than the writer Elena Ferrante. This discovery had a precedent: in 2014 I created a fake Facebook page for la Ferrante, where she stated: “My real name is Anita Raja”. Various private messages from cultural figures and people close to Ferrante wrote to me: “Thank you, Anita, finally everyone knows the truth. We already know her, but it is very important that readers know who Elena Ferrante is”.

-Isn’t there an ethical limit in this game?

-I think there is an ethical limit, but I think that, in the case of false death announcements of celebrities, this limit is not exceeded, because these people are well known and can defend themselves and totally deny a fake news like that. This would not be the case of an ordinary, non-famous person who would take a terrible hit from a fake death announcement or online phishing. In addition, I always declare that I created a false news, to avoid speculation and confirm that it is a game.

-The purpose of the game is maintained in these ten years?

-The objective is to show the unreliability of social networks as a source of information. Still, in ten years, almost nothing has changed on this topic, and journalists always use social networks, especially Twitter, as a reliable press source. But Twitter and the web are unreliable, and they are very dangerous for journalism.

virtual performances

When the false death of Japanese writer Haruki Maurakami was announced on Twitter, from the Twitter account @Cascadasun (Waterfalls Japan) the information was denied. The message added that Murakami would visit Chile in the second half of this year, which excited readers. However, there was a case of fake news in the second degree or, as the person in charge of the account called it, a “metafake”. In the biography of @Cascadasun It reads: “Foundation and Festival that unite the people of Cascadas with Japan. The origin of the festival is found in the brotherhood of Mount Fuji with the Osorno volcano.

“I have always considered it as a virtual performance -says Lars Dropplemann [un seudónimo]-. Art as an agent intervenes on reality to pose questions or question the ways or prejudices we use to read it. Just as Rémi Gaillard intervenes in public spaces from the point of view of humor and the absurd, and for me he is a benchmark for Cascadas Japan, it seems to me that Twitter is a public space, where many communities coexist, and it is a suitable space for this type of artistic intervention or virtual performances, especially in this post-truth era or the constant fake news”. This is how each new technology creates its own antibodies.

Twitter’s “serial killer” confesses: “journalists still use social networks as a reliable press source”