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Aug 1 / King Kaufman

What’s the deal? Media pros fooled by obviously phony trade tweets

Yesterday was exciting for baseball fans because of all the trades that went down prior to the non-waiver trading deadline. It was also exciting if you like to see major media figures getting bamboozled by fake Twitter accounts.

Deadspin writer Barry Petchesky was like a Plutarch of major media figures getting bamboozled by fake Twitter accounts Thursday. First he chronicled Jim Bowden getting fooled by a fake Joel Sherman tweet that had Marlon Byrd going from the Phillies to the Yankees. Then he told the tale of ESPN’s on-air talkers talking up a Ben Zobrist deal that had been tweeted by a fake Bob Nightengale account.

Bowden, a former general manager who now works for ESPN and SiriusXM radio, somehow didn’t notice, or didn’t care, that the account supposedly belonging to the New York Post’s Sherman only had a handful of followers, or that the last letter of Sherman’s first name was a capital I, not a lower-case L. Byrd hadn’t been traded to the Yanks, and no one was reporting that he had except that fake account, so it was pretty obvious where Bowden got his information when he tweeted, without attribution, “Yankees acquire Marlon Byrd.”

Bowden, Petchesky writes, then went on a kind of Twitter odyssey, variously deleting, altering, reinstating and redeleting different Twitter accounts.

A little later, on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” deadline special, host Jon Sciambi reported that the Rays had traded Zobrist to the Pirates, which hadn’t happened. Petchesky speculates that a producer handed Sciambi the report. If true, Sciambi can’t be faulted. He was on the air and had to trust the info he was getting, though like Bowden, he also didn’t credit his source, instead acting as though his information simply existed, with no origin.

The tweet was supposedly from USA Today baseball writer Nightengale, but whoever spotted it clearly didn’t notice the account name, @Daily_Tunez, which doesn’t sound like Nightengale, or the following tweet, which was a profane “gotcha.”

None of this happens if people verify and attribute everything.

It’s easy to spoof a Twitter account: You can use any photo you want in the avatar, and any name you want in the Name field. See what I mean?

But it’s also not that difficult to spot a spoof. You have to pay attention. You have to make the effort. But a few seconds can keep you from getting bamboozled—and becoming part of Barry Petchesky’s opus.