Becoming Paul Krugman: How A Google+ Account Tricked Twitter


The world of media reporting is, often enough, something of a clusterf… fiasco, with media people reporting on the personal views or slip-ups or extracurricular activities of their colleagues. Those who report or present the news become newsworthy themselves, and, as such, hold a certain level of celebrity: not enough so that E! is guaranteed to cover their weddings (we can’t all be Kardashians, after all), but enough that they are ripe for satire and parody. To wit: Yesterday, Tim Carney, the Washington Examiner‘s senior political columnist, noticed that a Google+ account ostensibly belonging to economist and New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman, posted a rather controversial reaction to the earthquake that resulted in literally dozens of pencils rolling onto the floor.

“People on twitter might be joking,” Kurgman appeared to have written, “but in all seriousness, we would see a bigger boost in spending and hence economic growth if the earthquake had done more damage.”

OMG LOL BBQ, right? How could Krugman say something so insensitive and predictable? Naturally, Carney Tweeted about the post:

The problem, as Slate’s Dave Weigel points out, is that Krugman had never written such a thing. The Google+ account in question actually belongs to a recently laid-off college grad named Carlos Graterol. He explains (/defends) the post thusly:

I do not regret writing it and I hope it will enlighten many on the perverse economic views held by a Nobel winning economist writing for the New York Times who also lectures at Princeton University. While Paul Krugman did not write the above statement, he has made similar statements within the year and I would not be surprised if Paul Krugman did not in fact hold this view.

Weigel double-checked with Krugman himself, who verified that he had not written that post.

Carney has since apologized for the mix-up and explained that he’s deleting the original Tweet to avoid any further confusion.

Weigel and Carney both make an excellent point: Carney should have verified that the account in question belonged to Krugman. We’re all in agreement on that point, I think. But there’s another matter at play here: Shouldn’t companies and social media platforms like Google+ take a cue from Twitter and verify accounts purporting to belong to public figures whose ideas routinely mold or guide discussion? Should Gaterol face any sort of consequence for impersonating Krugman without identifying the account as satire?

h/t Slate and Twitter

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