A GOP campaign manager who was unmasked for deliberately spreading false information on Twitter in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may face criminal charges, New York City Councilman Peter Vallone suggested to website BuzzFeed earlier this week.
Shashank Tripathi, who has since been let go from the re-election campaign of Republican Christopher Wight, sent a series of tweets when New York City was in Sandy’s grip, indicating among other things that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange had been badly flooded in the storm.
Tripathi, tweeting under the handle @comfortablysmug, posted tweets that eventually made their way to mainstream media sources including CNN and The Weather Channel before the information was deemed false and refuted on the microblogging site.
Yesterday afternoon, Wight addressed the Twitter allegations and said that Tripathi’s actions came as a shock both to the candidate as well as his campaign:
“His actions were all the more distressing, occurring as they did, in the midst of Monday’s disastrous weather — during a time when no one was truly safe. I learned from online reports yesterday, just as others did, that Shashank had been spreading false information from a personal and anonymous Twitter account. While he had been with my campaign for seven months, I had no indication that he was capable of the type of behavior he exhibited.”
Vallone said that he recommended criminal charges be considered despite the legally murky area in which lying on Twitter falls:
“Everyone knows the example of yelling fire in a crowded movie theater… A little bit of truth makes them much more dangerous,” Vallone added, saying the nature of the feed having truth mixed with falsehoods made it hard for people to separate lies from fact… I hope the fact that I’m asking for criminal charges to be seriously considered will make him much less comfortable and much less smug.”
Tripathi has not tweeted as @comfortablysmug since an apology after he was publicly unmasked.