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Italian 'journalist' reportedly behind fake Archbishop Desmond Tutu tweet

Social media post decried as fake as Tutu Legacy Foundation says The Arch is alive and well

20 October 2021 - 17:08
Archbishop Desmond Tutu at his 90th birthday Eucharist service at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town on October 7 2021. File photo.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu at his 90th birthday Eucharist service at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town on October 7 2021. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

As reports of the “death” of SA Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu shook the country on Wednesday, the Twitter account which broke the news has been revealed to be fake.

News of Tutu’s death was broken on the account @BishopSMoreo, which claimed to be the official account of Johannesburg Anglican Bishop Stephen Moreo.

Twitter reflects the account as having been created in August, with its first tweet being posted on Wednesday.

The fake Twitter account which was used to claim that Archibishop Desmond Tutu had died.
The fake Twitter account which was used to claim that Archibishop Desmond Tutu had died.
Image: Twitter

Within 40 minutes of posting the first tweet claiming Tutu’s death, the account claimed that the person behind it was Italian journalist, author and schoolteacher, Tommasso Debenedetti.

“This account is a hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti,” the account posted.

Moments later, the account was deleted.

A Google search of Debenedetti reveals that he is renowned for creating fake social media page.

According to a Wikipedia page, Debenedetti has, since 2011, created fake Twitter accounts of famous world personalities, spreading fake news.

The page states that in 2012, a hoax announcing the death of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad created a global rise in the price of oil.

“Other Debenedetti Twitter hoaxes were picked by important news sources, fooling many newspapers,” including The New York Times, The Guardian and USA Today, reads the Wikipedia page.

In response to the news of Tutu’s alleged death, the Tutu Legacy Foundation tweeted: “The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation can confirm that this is not true, it is fake news. @TheDesmondTutu as well as Mrs Leah Tutu are still with us. Thank you.”

In the past Debenedetti has said that he created fake Twitter accounts “to show how easy it is to fool the press in the era of social media”.

Attempts to reach Debenedetti for comment as to why he reportedly tweeted that Tutu had died are ongoing.

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