Last night, a Twitter user named @ComfortablySmug invented and spread several pieces of false information about Hurricane Sandy via Twitter, including the widespread rumor that there was flooding at the New York Stock Exchange. @ComfortablySmug has a sizable internet following–he was once profiled by New York mag for his prolific commenting on their site–but has always operated under anonymity.
This morning, @ComfortablySmug was outed as Shashank Tripathi, hedge-fund analyst and campaign manager for Christopher Wight, a GOP congressional candidate from New York’s district 12. Buzzfeed FWD contributor Jack Stuef unmasked Tripathi by matching censored photos posted to the @ComfortablySmug account with uncensored photos of Tripathi that existed elsewhere on the internet.
“What leads a person to do such a thing, which his critics have likened to shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater? It’s unclear,” writes Stuef. “But perhaps it has something to do with the nature of anonymity. If there are no consequences for posting false “BREAKING” news, there’s an incentive to do it to an accumulate a large audience. What @comfortablysmug didn’t count on, apparently, was losing that anonymity.”