Did the New York Times ‘Officialize’ Kim Jong-Un’s Death?

As uncertainty surrounded the medical status of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, at least one unknown party took advantage of the moment to sow disinformation.

A bogus Twitter account billing itself as “@nytimesoffcial” — an apparent attempt to trick users into thinking it represented the actual New York Times — attracted attention on April 25 2020 by posting a fake “breaking news” item saying that the country had “officialized” Kim’s death.

It was shared nearly 300 times on the platform by the time it was brought to light by John C. Silva, the director of education for the non-profit group the NewsLit Project. He wrote:

How many red flags do you need to realize something is fake?
1. No blue check
2. “official” is misspelled
3. Account was created this month
4. No header image
5. Only 1 tweet
6. Fewer than 50 followers
7. No link to an article on NYT site

Yet people keep replying and retweeting pic.twitter.com/DeLdUcbCoh

— John C. Silva, NBCT (@MrSilva) April 26, 2020

The account’s reach was curtailed, however, as it was suspended by Twitter. Kim’s health status, however, remains unconfirmed. The tabloid blog TMZ said in a post that he was dead or “on his death bed with no hope for recuperation” after heart surgery, claiming that it was first reported by Chinese and Japanese news outlets but without identifying or linking to an actual source.

For the record, the newspaper’s actual Twitter account is @NYTimes.