Tommasso Debenedetti's fake John Le Carre account announces the death of J.K. Rowling.
FIDEL CASTRO, Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope Benedict XVI - Italian Tommasso Debenedetti has killed them all in fake tweets aimed at exposing shoddy journalism that have earned him global notoriety.
The latest victim of Mr Debenedetti's unusual hobby is the British author J.K. Rowling, whose death in an accident he announced from a fake Twitter account purporting to belong to her fellow writer John Le Carre.
''Death works well on Twitter,'' Mr Debenedetti, who is in his 40s and says he teaches literature at a school in Rome, said in a phone interview.
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
Mr Debenedetti said that when he saw his Le Carre account had 2500 followers including journalists from major British, German and US media, ''I decided to make John Le Carre say J.K. Rowling had died''.
Mr Debenedetti said the tweet was then retweeted hundreds of times and a Chilean television station even gave the false news as fact.
The literary fake artist says his aim in all of this is to ''show that Twitter has become a news agency - the least reliable in the world''.
''Unfortunately, journalism works on speed. False news spreads exponentially,'' he said, pointing out that retweets by journalists lend credibility to rumours even if they are not actually published.
''In the end, everyone forgets what the original source was.''
Among his many claims to internet infamy, Mr Debenedetti boasts of having forced the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, to deny the Pope had died after sending a false tweet purportedly from the Vatican's Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.
He claims his tweet announcing the death of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad made the price of oil go up and that another one about the demise of Mr Gorbachev prompted someone to update his Wikipedia page with the day of his death.
Mr Debenedetti calls these his ''games'' and appears unconcerned about any unease they may cause, saying that he comes out and claims the rumour as his own invention within an hour of sending the first tweet.
Journalists ''should be more prudent and carry out all the necessary checks, particularly in local media, local radio and internet sites which fall most easily into this trap'' he said.