Germany lurched into a brief panic Friday as several media outlets fell for a satirical tweet that claimed Chancellor Angela Merkels coalition had collapsed in a bitter row over immigration.
The fake news that rebellious Interior Minister Horst Seehofer would end his Bavarian CSU party's seven-decade partnership with Merkel's CDU was described as a "bombshell" by the apparently verified Twitter account.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert, receiving live updates during a press conference, was able to quickly shoot down the claim -- but not before it had been cited as breaking news on the website of top-selling Bild tabloid and other media.
"At the moment there are increasing indications that this 'trustworthy Twitter source' is actually the opposite," said Seibert.
"It belongs quite possibly to a Titanic journalist," he said, referring to a satirical magazine well known for its political pranks.
"We should all stay calm," he added, non-plussed.
A member of the CSU's leadership, Hans Michelbach also quickly clarified the claim was "fake news. It likely came from Titanic."
The tweet had been doctored to appear to come from regional public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk.
But it was actually the account of Titanic's editor, who changed the profile back after the hoax was exposed.
The alleged report claimed that Seehofer, after days of feuding with Merkel, had "announced according to an internal email the termination of the partnership" with her CDU.
Suggesting a major crisis for the veteran chancellor running the EU's biggest economy, it went on to say: "Merkel informed, press conference around 15h +++ Details to follow!"
As the falsified news briefly set alight the Twittersphere, both the euro and the DAX index of blue-chip German stocks showed a dip.