North Korea launched its first ICBM yesterday, putting the world on the brink of nuclear war. But in the rush to get news printed, some journalists were a bit sloppy. The New York Times mistook a tweet from the North Korea parody account DPRK_News as real. And this isn’t the first time news outlets have been suckered by “news” from this Twitter account.
The New York Times story was first published on Tuesday and updated to include this:
On Wednesday morning, [Kim Jong-un] taunted the United States, saying the launch was a Fourth of July “gift” to the Trump administration.
“We should send them gifts once in a while to help break their boredom,” he said, according to the North Korean state-run news agency. On Twitter early Wednesday, the North Korean government belittled the joint exercise as “demonstrating near total ignorance of ballistic science.”
The reporters apparently saw this tweet from the parody account, which shows a GIF of US and South Korean missile tests at an undisclosed location in South Korea, not unlike the ones that happened earlier today.
The New York Times had to issue a correction:
Correction: July 4, 2017
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article attributed incorrectly a Twitter statement to the North Korean government. The North Korean government did not belittle a joint American-South Korean military exercise as “demonstrating near total ignorance of ballistic science,” that statement was from the DPRK News Service, a parody Twitter account.
The account has been run for years by two anonymous authors associated with attorney Ken White, known online as Popehat. Gizmodo even reported on it being fake in January of 2015 in a post that got this blogger blocked from following the account.
But this is far from the first time that some respectable news outlets have been taken in. Newsweek, the Washington Post, Reuters, HuffPost, the Verge, and Buzzfeed have all been tricked by the account.
It was an embarrassing mistake for a major news outlet like the New York Times, but understandable since the account isn’t that funny. (Calling it not funny is precisely what got me blocked, by the way.) As I’ve pointed out before, Kim Jong-un’s absurd and over-the-top pronouncements are just that, absurd and over-the-top. So when a Twitter account is maybe just 5 percent more absurd it’s not exactly a great parody.
But the account has been around long enough that there’s really no excuse anymore. If you’re going to use Twitter as a source, you should know what the dependable sources of news are. Whether you think it’s funny or not, DPRK_News is totally fake.