Following yesterday’s news that a memo claiming McDonald’s deliberately rips off customers was a fake (pictured), I spoke about Internet pranks on ABC Radio 891 Adelaide this morning. I figured you might as well see my notes.
Oh, and the audio is below.
The fake memo was the work of Adelaide-based satirist and prankster David Thorne who, amongst other things, runs the website 27bslash6 as troll-bait and is flogging t-shirts and a book of his pranks called The Internet is a Playground.
Personally, I reckon pranks that just waste people’s time or otherwise annoy them without making any more significant point about society are pretty cheap.
Thorne’s attempt to pay a bill with a drawing of a spider is perhaps amusing, and it’s good that the victim saw the joke. But I put it at the same level as The Chaser bringing a horse into shops. Whereas The Chaser‘s breach of security at APEC, which you can see on video, made an important point about security theatre and social engineering attacks.
Anyway, this is what I discovered while poking around…
A US ABC News story listed their Top 5 Website Hoaxes of All Time, including the original website for The Blair Witch Project, Bonsai Kittens, a Victorian-era robot called Boilerplate and The Yes Men‘s stunning disruption of Dow Chemicals.
Even so, it fooled the BBC in 2004 when an unknowing researcher used the Web site to book an interview with a Dow Chemical executive.
While on-air the “executive” said Dow would finally clean up the toxic chemical plant in Bhopal, India and pay billions in compensation to the victims on the 20-year anniversary of the disaster. Dow Chemical’s stock dropped sharply.
In reality, Dow Chemical does not claim responsibility for the lethal gas that killed at least 8,000 people and poisoned about half a million.
The Dow stunt was pulled off by The Yes Men, a loosely knit group of Internet pranksters who spoof prominent corporations and organisations.
I also stumbled across the Exploding Cactus Spider Hoax, how the story of Jeff Goldblum’s death was created and spread using a “celebrity fake news generator” at FakeAWish.com, and the Museum of Hoaxes’ list of The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.
I suppose I should mention that to check if something’s a hoax or not, Snopes is your friend.
So, which are your favourite Internet hoaxes?
[The radio interview is probably Copyright © 2009 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but since they don’t archive them I reckon it’s fair enough putting it here provided you just listen to it and I link back to the ABC Adelaide website and encourage you to listen.]