Media Pranks

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New York Teenager Confesses to Not Being a Millionaire

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

The December 15, 2014 issue of New York magazine reported that 17-year-old Mohammed Islam brought down $72 million swapping stocks between classes, but the story quickly dissolved into a mixture of journalistic credulity and outright bullshit. After a cancelled TV appearance and protests from his fellow members of the high school Leaders Investment Club, Islam comes clean in a chat with the New York Observer.


“New York Mag’s Boy Genius Investor Made It All Up”
by Ken Kurson
The New York Observer
December 15, 2014

fullsizerender4It’s been a tough month for fact-checking. After the Rolling Stone campus rape story unraveled, readers of all publications can be forgiven for questioning the process by which Americans get our news. And now it turns out that another blockbuster story is—to quote its subject in an exclusive Observer interview — ”not true.”

Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the ‘high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”

And now it turns out, the real number is… zero.

In an exclusive interview with Mr. Islam and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov, who also featured heavily in the New York story, the baby-faced boys who dress in suits with tie clips came clean. Swept up in a tide of media adulation, they made the whole thing up.

Speaking at the offices of their newly hired crisis pr firm, 5WPR, and handled by a phalanx of four, including the lawyer Ed Mermelstein of RheemBell & Mermelstein, Mr. Islam told a story that will be familiar to just about any 12th grader—a fib turns into a lie turns into a rumor turns into a bunch of mainstream media stories and invitations to appear on CNBC.

Here’s how it happened. Read more.

Banksy Bust Bomb

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks

Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist’s identity has been revealed
by Ella Alexander
20 October 2014
Independent.co.uk

Banksy has not been arrested, despite a report stating the contrary.

Banksy, AKA Paul Horner, seen here being taken into police custody.(AP Photo/Dennis System)

Banksy, AKA Paul Horner, seen here being taken into police custody.(AP Photo/Dennis System)

“The Banksy arrest is a hoax,” the street artist’s publicist, Jo Brooks, told The Independent.

However, the prank seems to have duped the internet, with his name quickly trending on Twitter.

A false story, published on US website National Report, alleged that the identity of the British street artist had finally been revealed and he had been arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police and is being held “without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting”.

The story claimed that Banksy’s London art studio had been raided, where “thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism” were found, along with ID thought to belong to the famed anonymous street artist, which allegedly identified him as Liverpool-born Paul Homer.

However, a quick Google search shows that the quotes were originally published in 2013 on hoax website on PRLog. Read the rest of the story here.

Fame on a Budget

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Instructionals, Media Pranks, Pranksters

From Mark Borkowski:


How to become internet famous for $68
by Kevin Ashton
Medium.com

The secret of online celebrity Santiago Swallow.

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Santiago Swallow may be one of the most famous people no one has heard of.

His eyes fume from his Twitter profile: he is Hollywood-handsome with high cheekbones and dirty blond, collar-length hair. Next to his name is one of social media’s most prized possessions, Twitter’s blue “verified account” checkmark. Beneath it are numbers to make many in the online world jealous: Santiago Swallow has tens of thousands of followers. The tweets Swallow sends them are cryptic nuggets of wisdom that unroll like scrolls from digital fortune cookies: “Before you lose weight, find hope,” says one. Another: “To write is to live endlessly.”

His Wikipedia biography explains why: (more…)

How to Fakebook Your Vacation

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks

Dutch Girl Fakes a Trip to South East Asia
by Will Jones
GapYear.com
September 9, 2014

Fakebooking taken to a new level on this ‘gap year’ in South East Asia

Fakebooking Your Vacation

If you’ve ever spent a rainy evening thumbing through your Facebook newsfeed glaring with scarcely controllable envy at the seemingly endless torrent of pictures posted by unbearably smug friends who are backpacking through some country with scenes so vibrant you wonder if the saturation setting on your screen is faulty, relax.

It could all be a backpack of lies.

For five weeks Dutch student Zilla van den Born subjected her Facebook friends to the above, claiming to be travelling around South East Asia, when in reality she had never left her home city of Amsterdam. She went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion, which was fed to her friends and family alike. The only person who knew the truth was her boyfriend.

During her 42 day ‘break’ she did all the things you would expect of someone in her position.
(more…)

The Wabuska Mangler: A Vintage Nevada Hoax

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

As Nevada turns 150, columnist Barry Smith celebrates a tradition of Silver State media malarkey.


“Nevada Newspapers Couldn’t Resist a Good Hoax”
By Barry Smith
Reno Gazette-Journal
October 5, 2014

shapeimage_3Nevada’s upcoming 150th birthday and National Newspaper Week make for a good opportunity to remind residents of one of this state’s seldom-celebrated contributions to journalism:

The hoax. The lie. Tall tales.

Mark Twain, of course, is our best-known example of a myth maker. But he’s not alone in the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame among Silver State journalists who didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

The pinnacle, as far as newspapers go, would be the Wabuska Mangler.

You may have passed through Wabuska on your way from Weeks to Weed Heights without realizing this tiny hamlet once had a feisty newspaper called the Mangler.

Well, it didn’t.

The Wabuska Mangler was entirely made up by Sam Davis, who was editor of The Morning Appeal in Carson City from 1879 to 1898, as a way to get outrageous opinions into the Appeal by attributing them to somebody else. (more…)

Fake Marketing Company Announces Fake Naked Photos

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Filed under: Instructionals, Media Pranks

Hoax instructional: How to deceive, deflect and scam the scandal hungry media and the all-believing public. Why? Just because.


The Emma Watson Naked Photo Countdown Was The Work Of Serial Internet Hoaxers
by James Cook
Business Insider
September 24, 2014

A mysterious countdown website emerged on Monday that hinted at the imminent reveal of naked photographs of the actress Emma Watson, stolen using the same iCloud vulnerability that hackers used to steal photographs of stars like Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence.

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As Business Insider reported on Monday, it’s highly unlikely that anyone has naked photographs of Emma Watson (we probably would have seen them by now, because she’s a top target for iCloud hackers). Instead the site seemed like an obvious prank designed to discredit 4chan users.

Sure enough, when the countdown came to an end, the site redirected to the website of a company named Rantic Marketing, which appears to be a viral marketing agency. But here’s where this gets really interesting: Rantic Marketing doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a marketing stunt at all, but a social experiment run by the most notorious gang of pranksters on the internet.

(more…)

“Perfect” Fake

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Filed under: Instructionals, Media Pranks

Over 7M views for “29 Celebrity Impressions, 1 Original Song”, by Rob Cantor. Only .5M checked out how the other 6.5M got faked out.


The Guy Perfectly Impersonating 29 Celebrities While Singing An Original Song Is A Fake
by Liat Kornowski
The Huffington Post
July 10, 2014

Remember this incredibly impressive video that popped up all over your Facebook feed earlier this month? You know the one, where one guy does 29 celebrity impressions while singing his original song, “Perfect.” The one that amassed nearly seven million views in under two weeks.

Watch the videos:

Well, this guy, with all his mighty talent and Billie Holiday imitation, is a fake… Rob Cantor, the man behind this well-orchestrated Internet hoax, posted yet another YouTube video Wednesday, July 9, explaining the workings behind the scenes. Read more here.

Google Street View Murder?

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

Pranking Google Is Fun, Until Cops Investigate You For Murder
by Sara Gates
The Huffington Post
June 3, 2014

Check this “murder” off as solved.

After a Google Street View user stumbled upon what looked like a murder scene last year, the user reported the sight to police, BBC News reports. Local authorities in Scotland, where the apparent axe murder was pictured, launched an investigation into the case to see if a crime had actually taken place.

As it turns out, the Google Street View “murder scene” from August 2012 was just a prank — and a pretty simple one, at that. Read more here.

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Inside James O’Keefe’s Latest Hollywood Hit Job

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Inside a Hollywood Hit Job: How Sting Artist James O’Keefe Tried to Set His Latest Trap – And Got Stung Himself
U.S. News
May 22, 2014

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On Wednesday, conservative activist and controversial video sting artist James O’Keefe made an appearance in Cannes during the Film Festival with a new, secretly recorded 20-minute video that he said exposes the hypocrisy of two environmentalist documentarians and two Hollywood actors. At the end of the clip, after Josh and Rebecca Tickell, Mariel Hemingway, and Ed Begley Jr. appear to have unwittingly agreed to accept financing for an anti-fracking film from Middle East oil interests, O’Keefe claims he’s caught other allegedly altruistic actors and filmmakers in his trap, teasing a clip of a phone conversation with filmmaker Josh Fox.

But this time, O’Keefe wasn’t the only one making secret recordings.

Read the rest of the story here.

Magical Skateboard

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks, Pranksters

From Andrea:


From the HUVrTech website:

What began as a summer project in 2010 at the MIT Physics Graduate Program has evolved into one of the most exciting independent products to be developed out of MIT since the high-powered lithium-ion batteries developed by Yet-Ming Chiang in 2001. Our team consists of materials science, electricity & magnetism experts who’ve solved an important part of one of science’s mysteries: the key to antigravity.

The HUVr Board team ultimately aims to improve the efficiency, speed and sustainability of mass transportation. Yet rather than spend several more years closed off from the world while investing in research and development, the team and our world-class investors have worked to change the economics R&D by marketing this exciting consumer product in order to fund ongoing R&D.

Watch the video

Read more here

HOPA Dry Erase Board Hoax

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Filed under: Media Pranks

From Jonathan: An oldie but goodie scam on media…


Aspiring young actress auditions and gets selected by The Chive comedy site to pretend to quit her job via photos of messages on a dry erase board which she supposedly emails to all her co-workers at 4:30 a.m. blasting her sexist, dumbass boss in August of 2010. The story goes viral by the time the Internet wakes up.

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The whole story is dissected on TechCrunch (which fell hot and heavy for the hoax) here.

Fake Facts for Free

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Filed under: Media Pranks

From Wil:


Fake research paper accepted into hundreds of online journals
by Lindsay Abrams
Salon.com
October 4, 2013

A “sting” operation found that open-access journals will accept anything — for a price

fakeresearch-425

The dream of open access to scientific knowledge has come up hard against the truism that you can’t trust everything you read on the Internet.

A fabricated — and highly flawed — research paper sent to 304 online journals by John Bohannon, a science journalist at Harvard, was accepted for publication by more than half of them. The paper, about a new cancer drug, included nonsensical graphs and an utter disregard for the scientific method. In addition, it was written by fake authors, from a fake university in Africa and, as a final flourish, had been changed through Google Translate into French and back to English. Collaborators at Harvard helped him make it convincingly boring. (more…)

The Great Salt Lake Whales

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Filed under: Media Pranks, The History of Pranks

From Emerson Dameron:


As seen on Futility Closet:

Here’s an imaginative newspaper hoax from the American West — James Wickham, a “scientific English gentleman,” was said to have released two 35-foot whales in the Great Salt Lake in 1873:

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Mr. Wickham came from London in person to superintend the ‘planting’ of his leviathan pets. He selected a small bay near the mouth of Bear River connected with the main water by a shallow strait half a mile wide. Across this strait he built a wide fence, and inside the pen so formed he turned the whales loose. After a few minutes inactivity they disported themselves in a lively manner, spouting water as in mid-ocean, but as if taking in by instinct or intention the cramped character of their new home, they suddenly made a bee line for deep water and shot through the wire fence as if it had been made of threads. In twenty minutes they were out of sight, and the chagrined Mr. Wickham stood gazing helplessly at the big salt water. (more…)

Twerking Girl-on-Fire is a Hoax!

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Filed under: Media Pranks

Courtesy of the Jimmel Kimmel Show:

Read more at Huffington Post

Eyeball-licking Craze? Really?

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks

From W.J. Elvin III: An interesting study in mainstream media wiggling and waffling. They should have just said “We were suckered. Sorry.” But instead a lot of jabber about how they were just one of many, “maybe” dropped the ball as far as fact-checking and heeding warnings, blah, blah, blah…


The readers’ editor on… how we fell into the trap of reporting Japan’s eyeball-licking craze as fact
bu Chris Elliott
The Guardian
August 25, 2013

The story was all over the web, but it was not especially difficult to cast doubts on the claim that there was an epidemic of tongue-induced pink eye

lick2-200The web is voracious. It gobbles up stories, themes and memes like a monster from outer space. With the merest puff of wind to launch them, a bewildering slew of tales take off, powered by the perpetual motion of repetition.

The Guardian was among a crowd that made the mistake of filling the sails of one of the weirder stories to take off in this way. The article appeared on the Shortcuts blog. It aims to be a fast-paced humorous column, which is described as “trending topics and news analysis”.

[Video from Huffington Post]

The headline on the story, posted on 14 June 2013, is: “Eyeball-licking: the fetish that is making Japanese teenagers sick”. The author explains that the article will be about “oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan like, well, like a great big dirty bacteria-coated tongue sweeping across a horrific number of adolescent eyeballs … oculolinctus is being blamed for a significant rise in Japanese cases of conjunctivitis and eye-chlamydia … It’s apparently seen as a new second-base; the thing you graduate to when kissing gets boring.” (more…)