Julian Assange contacted a Twitter account that he incorrectly believed to be the real Sean Hannity. In actuality, Assange was contacting an account pretending to be the Fox host.
He offered the impostor account dirt on U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the U.S. Intelligence Committee.
[Dell] Gilliam, a technical writer from Texas, was bored with the flu when she created @SeanHannity__ early Saturday morning. The Fox News host's real account was temporarily deleted after cryptically tweeting the phrase “Form Submission 1649 | #Hannity” on Friday night. Twitter said the account had been “briefly compromised,” according to a statement provided to The Daily Beast, and was back up on Sunday morning.
What transpired next was beyond anything Gilliam thought might happen with the fake account: she found herself setting up a meeting with Assange to discuss "some news about Warner", a reference to Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Gilliam: I'd like to set up a time for us to talk. When may be good for you?
Assange: Back! Good to see.
Most of today is good.
Try other channels.
Gilliam: I can't believe this is happening. I mean...I can. It's crazy. Nothing can be put past people. I'm exhausted from the whole night. What about you, though? You doing ok?
Assange: I'm happy as long as there is a fight!
Gilliam: I'm definitely up for a fight. You up for a call at 9:30 Eastern?
You can send me messages on other channels. Have some news about Warner.
Gilliam: Sounds good. Talk to you soon!
Assange: Take care!
Less than 48 hours later, Warner made headlines claiming that the Senate intelligence committee received “end-of-the-year document dumps” that “opened a lot of new questions” about Trump and Russia.
When reached by The Daily Beast about the messages, Warner’s spokesperson pointed to WikiLeaks’ ties to the release of recent document drops performed by Russian entities, like Kremlin cutout Guccifer 2.0.
Having taken precautions not to violate Twitter's terms of service, Gilliam's fake Hannity account is still up and running, with more than 24,000 followers.
Gilliam said she plans on keeping the account going, or donating her 24,000 followers to an environmental nonprofit she works with. She’s already tweeted out a YouTube video from a band she likes from Nashville to try to get them more followers.
And what does she think of the messages she has received?
“I’d say it’s one-third hate mail, one-third hero worship, one-third people saying they figured it out. His followers are disturbingly angry,” she said.
“Reading the messages, I can see how believing in this false reality would be really easy to do. I was starting to get really nervous about what was really happening. It all sucks you into a level of paranoia I’d never seen before.”