German media were sent scrambling after a report circulated on Twitter of a split in the decades-old alliance of conservative Christian parties. The tip didn't come from a public broadcaster, but a satirical magazine.
Several major German media outlets went into overdrive on Friday after a tweet appeared to announce the dissolution of Christian conservative tie-up of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party led by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the Christian Social Union.
A tweet from an account called "hr Tagesgeschehen," masquerading as a branch of local public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk — (@hrtgn) complete with one of Twitter's verified account badges — suggested that the alliance was through.
The text of the tweet alleged that an email from Hesse State Premier Volker Bouffier said Seehofer was dissolving CSU ties with the CDU and that the chancellor had been informed.
"We now have to prepare ourselves to compete with a new Bavarian CDU in the next general election," a quote card stated, satirically (and falsely) attributed to Bouffier.
As news of the tweet circulated, Reuters news agency, the daily newspaper Bild, Germany's highest-circulation paper, Focus news magazine and TV news channel N24 quickly reported that the alliance was officially over, incorrectly citing Hessischer Rundfunk.
Jan Böhmermann, a German comedian who came under fire in 2016 for his satirical poem insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, captured the moment Bild sent out a push notification reporting on the misinformation.
It turns out, however, that the tweet was a hoax. The "hr Tagesgeschehen" Twitter account is run by German satirical magazine Titanic, as shown by one of their follow-up tweets calling on those who fell for the prank to subscribe to the magazine and a change in the account's name.
Hans Michelbach, the deputy head of the CSU's parliamentary party, dismissed the tweet in comments to Reuters, saying reports about the breakup were "rubbish."
A spokesman for the real Hessischer Rundfunk also confirmed that the tweet was fake and that the broadcaster had nothing to do with it or the @hrtgn account.
Although the news of their split was fake, tensions between Merkel's CDU and Seehofer's CSU are currently running high, as the two leaders spar over migration policy.