Earlier today, the Twitter account @MiniInterRussia claiming to be V. Kolokoltsev the 'Minister of Interior of Russia' tweeted the following:RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS: BASHAR AL ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA, HAS BEEN KILLED TODAY IN LATAKYJA WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO PEOPLE.
RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS: BASHAR AL ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA, HAS BEEN KILLED TODAY IN LATAKYJA WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO PEOPLE.The account wrote several tweets of a similar nature reporting the death of President al-Assad of Syria. The updates were retweeted thousands of times and lots of people took the apparently absurd rumour seriously. Part of the reason for that was the fact that the account had thousands of followers and was created on the 21st of March 2012. Also, the account had several credible Twitter followers.
— V. Kolokoltsev (@MiniInterRussia) August 6, 2012
The reason for that, it turns out, is that this is an account that had been used several times in the past to spread death rumours about famous people. The list includes in addition to al-Assad, Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez, Nelson Mandela, Hosni Mubarak, and Francis Ford Coppola among others. With each rumour, the account gets more followers, then its owner deletes all the old tweets and starts anew, creating a new identity. This page keeps a record of the old tweets even if they are deleted.
Later in the day, the account tweeted 'This account is an hoax created by italian (sic) journalist Tomasso De Benedetti'. If it's indeed De Benedetti, it makes sense because of his previous hoaxes. He had a point to prove about media gullibility but I'm getting sick of his hoaxes. Let's make sure he can't use that account at least. So check next time you hear a rumour.