A tweet falsely claiming to announce the death of Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro has spread online, fooling people around the world. Among those conned by the fake story was RTÉ's Morning Ireland, who inadvertently spread the disinformation.
A Twitter account purporting to be publisher Faber & Faber falsely announced the news on Thursday, which quickly spread online. Minutes later, the account claimed it was run by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti. It is understood that Faber has reported the fake account to Twitter, which has since removed it, and confirmed it is a hoax.
RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland programme unwittingly announced the news of the author's death this morning. "Sad news from the literary world. Just in the last few minutes Faber Books has announced that the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro has died suddenly at the age of 67 and that an official announcement is to be released later this morning."
Shortly afterwards, Ryan Tubridy corrected the error and told listeners it was a fake story. "Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote one of my all-time favourite books … has been reported to be dead," Tubridy said on his show. "The truth of the matter is it seems he is not dead… We kind of double checked it upstairs and sure enough it seems the news has come from a fake Twitter account."
RTÉ News said it has “robust procedures for verifying information that appears on social media. Unfortunately, on this occasion, an unintended error was made. We've since rectified and removed all reference to the item from broadcast and elsewhere ... We apologise – and hope this helps to limit any confusion caused”.
The account claimed to be run by Italian journalist Tommaso Debenedetti. The serial hoaxer has a history of publishing fake stories in Italian newspapers and on social media in an effort to expose weak fact-checking in the media.
In the past Debenedetti has falsely announced the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Fidel Castro, Pedro Almodóvar and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
"Social media is the most unverifiable information source in the world but the news media believes it because of its need for speed," he told the Guardian in 2012. "On Facebook you are limited by access to 'friends', but on Twitter you can be sure people will follow you and it is being used as a real-time source of information without checks."
Debenedetti previously worked as a freelance journalist, selling fake interviews to Italian newspapers which failed to fact-check the stories. After being exposed as a serial hoaxer in 2010, he took to social media as his new medium of choice. Debenedetti has also obtained a “blue tick” on previous false Twitter accounts, exposing how easy it can be to obtain identity verification on the platform.
Ishiguro is a British novelist, screenwriter and short-story writer whose books include Never Let Me Go, The Unconsoled and The Remains of the Day. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. The Swedish Academy described him as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”