Yesterday, thousands of Bernie Sanders’ supporters began sharing what appeared to be a straightforward New York Times article—which you can read here—about Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s decision to endorse Sanders for President of the United States. Attributed to Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, both of whom are real Times reporters, the piece was written in convincing Times-ese, down to the headline (“Warren Endorses Sanders, Breaking With Colleagues”), lead sentence (“In a potentially decisive turn...”), and perfunctory quotes from the Sanders campaign and several disappointed Clinton surrogates. There were two major problems with the article, though: It wasn’t a real Times report, and Warren has not in fact endorsed Sanders.
As the Times itself reported, the article originated from a website called Clone Zone, which allows anyone to download a copy of a web page and alter its contents:
“An article circulating on social media tonight that is made to resemble a New York Times story and says Elizabeth Warren endorsed Bernie Sanders is a fake and has no connection to The Times,” said Matthew Purdy, a deputy executive editor of The Times. [...] The article appeared to have been created around midday Monday on Clone Zone, a website that allows users to make website “clones” in the guise of well-established sites.
Clone Zone told the paper that the fake article “had been viewed more than 50,000 times, with 15,000 shares on Facebook.” Following a cease-and-desist letter from the Times, Clone Zone removed the offending link:
An interesting side note: Clone Zone appears to have been created by a New York City-based “creative studio” called 4REAL, which describes itself as “a diverse team of artists, designers, and developers dedicated to facilitating a deeper relationship between culture and technology through critical analysis and innovation.”
Besides Clone Zone, 4REAL also collaborated on an “interactive portal” for the website of the Clinton Global Initiative, a subsidiary of the Clinton Foundation that has come under intense scrutiny for the overlapping roles of its co-founder and Clinton family confidante, Doug Band, and the instrumental role Bill Clinton has played in filling the initiative’s coffers. Hillary Clinton, who is running against Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, joined the Clinton Foundation after retiring as Secretary of State in 2013.
We’ve reached out to 4REAL, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and the Clinton Foundation for comment, and will update this post if we hear back.
Update — 12:25 p.m.
Analisa Teachworth, one of 4REAL’s co-founders, writes in an email to Gawker:
No we did not create the article - Sanders / Warren or any of the content that goes viral on Clonezone. We do not endorse any candidate and our previous work for the Clinton Global Initiative has nothing to do the platform CloneZone which is a artwork we made as a tool that allows users to clone the internet for fun. We have since be ordered to remove this fake news article down but it still continues to be a very hot topic.
Thank you for your inquiries and if you have any other questions just ask.
Update — 2:55 p.m.
A spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation emails Gawker:
Thanks for your questions.
In 2014, the Clinton Global Initiative worked with an agency called MKG on a project to showcase how commitments from CGI members are improving the lives of more than 430 million people in over 180 countries, and MKG hired several subcontractors, including one that worked for 4Real.
“My question is: Has the Clinton Foundation worked with 4REAL on anything else besides the interactive portal linked below?” No, we haven’t.