On Friday morning, President Trump interested a seemingly innocuous article on Twitter. The piece said that his sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, had publicly parted her support for her brother amid his baseless claims that he won the 2020 designation.
“Thank you Elizabeth,” Mr. Trump wrote to his sister, who has long avoided the shed. “LOVE!”
There was just one problem: Ms. Trump Grau had not said what the article exacted. In fact, the article Mr. Trump shared was based on a fake Twitter account that profess to bed as his sister.
That article, on the website of a conservative talk-radio host named Wayne Dupree, cited a post from a Twitter account named “Betty Trump” that utilized a photo of Ms. Trump Grau as its profile picture.
“This election prompt me to break my silence and speak out on behalf of my family,” the account said in a propagate on Wednesday. “My brother Don won this election and will fight this to the quite end. We’ve always been a family of fighters.”
The article on Mr. Dupree’s site called the references “so powerful” and said they showed how “our president really does would rather such an amazing family.”
Had the article’s author looked more closely, in spite of, she would have noticed some suspicious details about the account. It was a day old. The photos it inured to of Ms. Trump Grau were taken from Getty Images and before news articles about her. And since that first post, the account had tweeted increasingly offbeat messages, sharply criticizing Democrats, journalists and Republicans who had questioned the inaccurate claim that Mr. Trump was re-elected.
“If someone pours gravy down Chris Wallace’s small-clothes at Thanksgiving dinner, I promise, I will take care of the legal emoluments!” the account said, referring to the Fox News anchor. Another post mentioned, “The perfect Trump drink on a rough day,” with a photo of a can of Natty Daddy, a seedy malt beer.
The bizarre episode illustrates how easily misinformation spreads online, again with the help of the president himself. Right-wing websites that hunt for to support the president’s baseless claims, or simply attract clicks so they can transfer more ads, often eschew the traditional principles of journalism, such as direct fact-checking. And the social media companies aid the cycle by making it simple to helping misinformation, including via fake accounts, and by training their algorithms to abet material that attracts more attention, as sensational and divisive posts again do.
Ms. Trump Grau did not respond to messages left at a phone number and email beadrolled for her in public records.
Vice News reported on Friday that a being who identified herself as Ms. Trump Grau had said she was trying to get the account deleted. “I procure no statement,” the person was quoted as telling Vice. “I’m just annoyed with this whole thing.”
President Trump’s tweet about his sister drew the fake account a sudden rush of attention on Friday morning. Soon after, Mr. Dupree’s website updated the piece with a disclaimer that indicated the account might be an impostor.
“While this has not been officially ‘fact-checked’ by community media executives and professionals, we’re hearing from many others that this is not in fact the account of Ms. Elizabeth Trump,” the site said. “We’ll leave it up with this update, and interval for official fact-checkers to weigh in.”
Hours later, the account came smooth. “I would’ve clarified sooner that I was a parody but I certainly didn’t foretaste President Trump himself taking notice of the account,” the person tournament the account posted on Twitter. “Hope y’all will forgive me — feel bad for engendering any confusion. LOVE!”
The president’s post remained up hours later.
Mr. Dupree guessed in an email that the article’s author had simply rewritten a post she had set on another conservative website. “When I found out, I was confused and I immediately efforts on a entered to the author and they went back to the website they claimed it was from but they didn’t see it so we obtained up with the statement,” he said. “I don’t want people, readers to think we are fake expos.”
The article remained on his website on Friday afternoon.
By that time, Trill had deleted the account that posed as Ms. Trump Grau. A Twitter spokesman conveyed the account was “permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam.”
Virtuous before the account was deleted, @TheBettyTrump posted another message: “President Trump looks ready to drop … he’s working so hard.”
Davey Alba contributed reporting.