Elaborate Hoax Credits New York Times' Bill Keller With Pro-WikiLeaks Op-Ed

The Bill Keller who wrote the op-ed "WikiLeaks, a Post Postscript" makes his position clear: regardless of your feelings about Julian Assange, WikiLeaks must be protected under the First Amendment — so, too, the New York Times reporters who published stories based on WikiLeaks information.

The problem is that the real Bill Keller didn't write the op-ed. The article wasn't even published on the New York Times site, but rather on a fake NY Times page purchased on March 30.

But the hoax op-ed spread quickly across Twitter and social media, likely because it took such a strong stance in defense of WikiLeaks and the journalists who have reported on leaked cables.

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.

To add legitimacy to the op-ed, it was retweeted from Keller's Twitter account. Even though Keller has denied writing the piece, and the NY Times site has been exposed as a fake, the retweet remains.

The first Twitter accounts to tweet a link to the story were @WikiLeaks and @AnonyOps, which is suspicious, to say the least. But Keller's fellow journalists fell for it quickly. Even NY Times tech columnist Nick Bilton tweeted a link, writing, "Important piece by @nytkeIler defending @WikiLeaks and a plea to protect the First Amendment."

The account Bilton linked to, however, was also fake.

While the exact origin of the hoax is still unknown, some of the words were allegedly Keller's. GigaOM reporter Matthew Ingram tweeted—

interesting — whoever wrote that fake op-ed allegedly by @nytkeller used a couple of chunks from his email to me

At the moment no one is taking credit. And no one is denying credit more loudly than Keller, who wrote, "THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS. EMPHASIS ON 'FAKE. 'AS IN, NOT MINE."

[Image via AP]