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LONDON — An account on the social networking website Twitter which claimed to be Wendi Deng Murdoch, the wife of News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, was revealed to be fake on Tuesday after a series of bizarre messages.
The account, @Wendi_Deng, first appeared on Sunday and received a blue tick on Monday. The blue tick, a so-called Verified Badge, is used by Twitter to establish the authenticity of well known accounts so users can trust that a legitimate source is authoring their Tweets.
The fake Twitter profile emerged shortly after Rupert Murdoch joined the popular website on Saturday evening under the account name @rupertmurdoch. A spokeswoman for News Corporation initially confirmed that both @rupertmurdoch and @Wendi_Deng were authentic, but the spokeswoman on Tuesday admitted that she was wrong about Wendi Deng’s account.
It was not immediately clear how @Wendi_Deng became a verified account, and the mistake raised questions about the secret verification process which Twitter uses. “We don’t comment on our verification process but can confirm that the @wendi_deng account was mistakenly verified for a short period of time,” Twitter spokeswoman Rachel Bremer said. “We apologize for the confusion this caused.”
After News Corporation confirmed Wendi Deng was not behind the account, the anonymous writer posted a series of messages to apologize to anyone who felt misled. “As News International (a division of News Corporation) has finally come to their senses, it’s time to confirm that yes, this is a fake account,” one of the messages read. “I’m not Wendi. But you do have to wonder why they were unsure for so long.”
The person behind the fake account added: “And you have to wonder even more why Twitter verified this account for a full day. I never received any communication from them about this. I was as surprised – and even a little alarmed – when I saw the Verified tick appear on the profile.”
Other messages added: “To those of you who kept maintaining the account was fake, even after being verified, good on you for being suspicious. Above all, this was a bit of fun. If you don’t think it was, then you’d better ask Twitter to remove every other spoof account too. But I’m definitely not married to Rupert Murdoch. The thought terrifies me. Imagine his whispered sweet nothings.”
Questions about the authenticity of the account were raised on Monday evening when Twitter removed the verified tick. The person behind @Wendi_Deng had claimed to be introducing her husband to Twitter, but it later emerged that the account had been created after @rupertmurdoch.
“@wendi_deng’s account was created a day after his,” said Tim Haines, the founder of the website Favstar.fm which allows people to find popular tweets. “@wendi_deng was about @rupertmurdoch’s 20,000th follower.”
The @Wendi_Deng page raised eyebrows when a message was addressed to @rupertmurdoch, telling him to delete a tweet which said: “Maybe the Brits have too many holidays for a broke country!” Rupert Murdoch later deleted the tweet, after which @Wendi_Deng added: “EVERY1 @rupertmurdoch was only having a joke pROMSIE!!!” (sic).
Rupert Murdoch’s message stating that British people have ‘too many holidays’ received widespread media coverage. The reports often also included the response sent from @Wendi_Deng. Another tweet from @Wendi_Deng which received media coverage was addressed to English actor Ricky Gervais and said: “i think you look HOT ricky!!! (sssh dont tell @rupertmurdoch!)”
It is believed to be the first time that Twitter accidentally verified a spoof account. As of Tuesday, the social networking website has about 16,660 verified accounts, many of which are celebrities, politicians, businesses, government agencies and law enforcement.