During the storm last night, user @comfortablysmug was the source of a load of frightening but false information about conditions in New York City that spread wildly on Twitter and onto news broadcasts before ConEd, the MTA, and Wall Street sources had to take time out of the crisis situation to refute them.
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. 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. Based on photos he censored and posted to the account but I found unedited elsewhere, @comfortablysmug is Shashank Tripathi, a hedge-fund analyst and the campaign manager of Christopher R. Wight, this year’s Republican candidate for the U.S. House from New York’s 12th congressional district.