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Meet the Prankster Behind the Hoax N. Korea Twitter Feed That’s Playing the Media for Fools

With North Korea back in the Zeitgeist thanks to its maybe-connection the Sony Studios hacking, a hoax Twitter feed purporting to be the “official news feed of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea” is suckering media outlets with a depressing regularity.

@DPRK_News, which doesn’t explicitly boast its parody status but shows its hand in a steady stream of over-the-top tweets, has in the past week snookered Slate, Washington Post, Newsweek, and Fox host Greta van Susteren.

This week’s primary culprit tweet followed news Monday that the reclusive nation had experienced massive internet outages, perhaps at the hands of the U.S. in retaliation for the hacking:

Given the murky circumstances surrounding the outage, this might have been just the type of dissembling people expected from North Korea. The tweet snagged Washington Post and Slate, both of which took it for official propaganda. (Screenshots here.) The latter has since removed the tweet and appended a correction:

@DPRK_News is run by Patrick, a member of the libertarian blog Popehat, with some assists from a colleague. (Patrick didn’t want to give his last name.) He started it in 2009 and within days fooled a Norwegian news outlet into reporting North Korea was threatening war with Cyprus. Thinking things had gone far enough, Patrick shuttered the site, restarting it in 2013.

“It’s a combination of humor and gullibility,” Patrick wrote in an e-mail to Mediaite on the feed’s success. “Many of those who re-tweet it most often realize it’s a joke, and spread the joke. Others, not realizing it’s a joke, react or otherwise spread the flames.”

“One of the things that also helps is that actual communist propaganda, of the Stalinist variety, is so incredibly belligerent and self-congratulatory that it’s difficult to write something so outrageous as to trip an irony-meter,” he continued. “The Russians, especially under Stalin, used to write things of the sort we write all the time.”

After Greta van Susteren retweeted the account as apparent confirmation of her theory that North Korea had targeted Japanese interests in the Sony hack, Patrick pointed out that the site was not real. Van Susteren added a “some say this is a hoax account.” Patrick noted that the “some” in this case was the person running the account, and then offered proof:

The post is now gone from Van Susteren’s blog.

Patrick is often the one to point out the mistake to media outlets. “We have ourselves informed some of these of the parody. BuzzFeed and Newsweek were pretty gracious about it (i.e. – the authors laughed with us, after correcting),” Patrick wrote. “Others less so.”

The official news feed of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, on the other hand, has zero problem gloating over its alarming success yanking the media’s chain:

[Image via screengrab]

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