Bill Kellar’s avatar was unamused.
When Bill Keller was an editor for The New York Times, he published a profile of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange which Mr. Assange thought was not very flattering.
Later, however, Mr. Keller wrote a column called "WikiLeaks, a Post Postscript" where he said that "journalism should work in unison with government", a position which was the complete opposite of what he’d previously believed.
That’s because it was not what he believed.
He’d been pranked by Wikileaks.
Wikileaks registered a domain called "opinion-nytimes.com" and wrote a fake Bill Keller column in his style, sprinkled it with sentences Mr. Keller had written elsewhere, and formatted it (with real links) so it looked exactly like a real web page from The New York Times.
Then they distributed links to the page.
One link seemed to come through Mr. Keller’s twitter feed. But instead of "@nytkeller" they used the very similar "@nytkeiler".
They also somehow got the link sent through his actual Twitter feed.
Of course, once the link was sent, others retweeted the link, read the column and commented, and the fake story spead widely.
The purpose of the hoax was to get the Times to publicize that Wikileaks is being economically strangled because financial institutions have refused to allow donations to Wikileaks.
Said Mr. Keller:
"I see this in the realm of childish prank rather than crime against humanity. It’s a lame satire. I’d take it a little more seriously if it were actually funny."
– The fake story: "WikiLeaks, A Post Postscript">>
– WikiLeaks claims responsibility for fake Bill Keller column, citing donation ban, The Guardian>>
The fake Op-ed by Bill Keller:
WikiLeaks, A Post Postscript
By BILL KELLER
Published: July 29, 2012
¶AS rumors build about the potential financial blockade against the New York Times by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express for hosting U.S. government cables published by WikiLeaks, I find myself in the awkward position of having to defend WikiLeaks. During the House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on July 11th, several Republicans made it clear they also want New York Times journalists charged under the Espionage Act for their recent stories on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ and secret US cyber attacks against Iran.
¶As those of you who have followed my turbulent relationship with WikiLeaks and its Guru-In-Chief Julian Assange know, I am first in line when it comes to distancing myself from his brand of transparency without government checks and balances. 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 backroom pressures by the Obama Administration’s State Department to expand its financial blockade targeting WikiLeaks to include news organizations that host information from their trove of pilfered documents goes too far.
I’ve said repeatedly, in print and in a variety of public forums, that I would regard an attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks’ publication of these documents as an attack on all of us, and I believe the mainstream media should come to his defense. Obama has clearly not lived up to his 2008 campaign promises to protect whistleblowers, rather his policy is more like China’s treatment of dissidents. In fact the Syrian government has even decided against financial embargos or prosecution of Wikileaks despite their recent email dump.
The ACLU has shown through its government FOIA requests of WikiLeaks published cables, pretending secrets are secret after they are public isn’t easy. While I am confident that news organizations will not succumb to these Orwellian tactics, this new chapter in the WikiLeaks Saga makes me long for the era when The Times and other mainstream media, were the responsible gatekeepers of information.
One of the most difficult roles of editor-in-chief is deciding when to hold back a story that your investigative journalists are willing to risk going to jail for. These decisions are never easy. I was confronted with this dilemma as editor at The Times with the story of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. As I wrote in my December 16, 2005 statement justifying my decision to hold publication of the NSA story for a year, I came to the conclusion that the Bush Administration’s arguments to suppress outweighed the public’s right to know:
¶"Officials also assured senior editors of The Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time."