Social Media’s Power To Deceive Us In Our Darkest Hour


BUZZFEED: 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. MORE

UPDATE: What @comfortablysmug didn’t count on, apparently, was losing that anonymity. Based on photos he censored and posted to the account but I found unedited elsewhere, @comfortablysmug is Shashank Tripathi, a hedge fund analyst and the campaign manager of Christopher R. Wight, this year’s Republican candidate for the U.S. House from New York’s 12th Congressional District. FEC documents show Wight has paid Tripathi thousands of dollars this election cycle as a “consultant.” @comfortablysmug has been a vocal supporter of Mitt Romney and posted tweets suggesting he attended this year’s Republican convention. He’s listed here by a local Republican group coordinating volunteers for a Romney phone bank. He’s 29 years old. MORE

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RELATED: According to their study, Al Gore lost an estimated 2.8 million votes to George W. Bush in certain states because of drought or excessive rain. These are votes, the study dryly points out, that Gore could have used. MORE

RELATED: New York City’s mandatory evacuation saw throngs of people crowding into evacuation centres across the five boroughs. Around 80 had stayed overnight at the John Jay high school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with many more expected. They included three dogs, a cat, a turtle, a snake and a mouse. A handwritten sign inside the door divided newcomers into two categories: people to the right, animals to the left. “This time last year we had 1,000 people in here,” said one of three officials as he stood outside on a break. “We had two rooms full of dogs and cats too. This year we even got a turtle. And that snake’s got his eye on the mouse. It’s not gonna happen.” MORE