Rupert Murdoch has notched up more than 45,000 followers after joining Twitter
Murdoch's tweets so far focus on family, politics and cinema releases
80-year-old's social media appearance called a PR stunt by some
News Corp. official confirms to CNN that account is genuine
A phone hacking scandal may have cost Rupert Murdoch his biggest-selling newspaper in 2011, but the billionaire media mogul managed to end the year with a modest addition to his empire – an account on Twitter.
Within 48 hours of debuting with tweets about family, work and politics, Murdoch had pulled in more than 45,000 followers and stirred internet debate over why the 80-year-old was now embracing a technology often used to attack him.
The tweets also raised doubts that the notorious technophobe was writing the messages himself. Twitter creator Jack Dorsey – one of only four people being followed by Murdoch – however insisted that the media mogul was writing “with his own voice, in his own way.”
Murdoch appears to have made his Twitter debut on New Year’s Eve with a couple of brief comments on books including the biography of late Apple boss Steve Jobs, which he called “interesting but unfair.”
These were followed by praise for cinema releases “We Bought a Zoo,” and “The Descendants,” both produced by Murdoch’s Fox Movies. These fueled suspicions that Murdoch’s Twitter account was being used as a publicity tool to help improve his image after a damaging year.
“Could be brilliant News Corp PR operation,” Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff tweeted after earlier commenting: “Might be somebody who knows Murdoch, but it’s not Rupert (he doesn’t use a computer unassisted nor get his own email).”
Others claimed that the voice of the tweets, as well as their faltering grammar and punctuation, were unmistakably Murdoch. “You can tell by the tweets he’s doing it himself,” wrote CNN’s Piers Morgan, a former editor of one of Murdoch’s newspapers.
A spokesperson for Murdoch’s News Corp. confirmed to CNN the account is genuine.
The account could offer new insight into a businessman whose life has been under intense scrutiny this year after revelations that journalists at News of the World, one of his most profitable newspapers, illegally accessed the voicemail messages of scores of celebrities and public figures.
Twitter played a prominent role at the height of the scandal when it was used to pressure advertisers into boycotting the paper. Commentators said the loss of revenue was a key factor in Murdoch’s decision to shut the paper down.
Murdoch’s subsequent appearance before a British parliamentary inquiry into phone hacking also caused a sensation on Twitter, particularly after his wife, Wendi Deng, pounced on a man who tried to attack him with a foam pie.
There were echoes of Murdoch’s parliamentary appearance – which he called the “most humble day day of my life” – in New Year pledges which he tweeted in a January 1 message to Dorsey. “My resolutions, try to maintain humility and always curiosity. And of course diet!”
But there were also signs that the media mogul was still getting to grips with social media. Reports suggested he was forced to quickly delete one post – possibly after Deng leapt to his aid once again.
The Sydney Morning Herald – a fierce rival of his Australian publications – was among news outlets claiming that Murdoch was guilty of “tweeting-before-thinking” for suggesting that the British have too many holidays for a “broke country.”
The message was apparently removed, but not before someone tweeting as Wendi Deng implored: “RUPERT!!! delete tweet!” A further post on the unverified Deng account later added: “EVERY1 @rupertmurdoch was only having a joke pROMSIE!!!” [sic]
Murdoch also follows an account that appears on the surface to be Google CEO Larry Page but is actually run by a man in Virginia. It’s not clear whether Murdoch realizes he’s not following the real Larry Page.
Among other tweets by Murdoch, who also follows Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and Silcon Valley entrepreneur and British businessman Alan Sugar, were an expression of support for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.