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'Fake Carla Bruni' Twitter account spreads Thatcher death rumour

Newswire covered in shame after hasty retweet

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A fake celebrity Twitter account posing as that of outgoing French first lady Carla Bruni has been used to spread false rumours that former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher had died.

An update from the fake @CBruniOfficial Twitter account was retweeted without scrutiny by French news outlet @LesNews on Wednesday evening. In reality, the unverified @CBruniOfficial account-holder has no connection with the wife of recently deposed French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who apparently occasionally tweets under the handle @mmesarkozy. The fake news also spread to Francophone Canada, where a former Quebec provincial party leader was taken in.

CNN contacted Thatcher's official spokesperson, who quickly debunked the claims about the death of the milk snatcher Iron Lady. This, in turn, prompted @LesNews to delete its original tweets, and post an apology for unintentionally misleading its 100,000 plus followers.

The whole incident illustrates the perils of credulously accepting anything that might be posted onto a social network without double-checking its source or veracity, a point discussed in greater depth on Sophos's Naked Security blog here.

The offending tweet can still be viewed here. A subsequent update to @CBruniOfficial claims the 4,000-plus follower account is being run by an Italian journalist. A quick scan of the updates reveals mildly satirical claims that the former French first couple might move to Spain following Sarko's election defeat last weekend and an update in which "Carla" expresses an interest in appearing in a Pedro Almodóvar film. ®

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