Prank Busters

Blog Posts Gets an ‘A’

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Filed under: Prank Busters

Fact-checking the fact-checkers: gets an ‘A’
by Paul McNamara
April 13, 2009

blog-buzz-snopes-200What’s your first thought when someone spreads an e-mail around the office claiming that Oprah is giving away a million bucks or that your penny-pinching state will no longer send out reminders about driver’s license renewals?

Right: Better check to see if these things are true. (The first is not; the second is indeed, if you, like me, live in Massachusetts.)

Established in 1995, Snopes has long been the go-to site for running a rumor through the BS-detector, and its proprietors, David and Barbara Mikkelson, have assumed an almost mythic stature as the most authoritative discoverers of truth and falsity online.

But who’s checking the fact checkers?

Last Friday it was a similar but more narrowly focused outfit,, which is funded by the Annenberg Foundation and describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” (Why not try something easier first, like say peace in the Middle East?)

Here’s the essence of a chain e-mail that decided to fact check: Is run by a “very Democratic” duo who long hid their true identities, rarely do any real research, and blatantly fabricated a tale about a State Farm Insurance agent just because he publicly opposed the election of President Obama? (more…)

Obama Campaign Fights the Smears

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Filed under: Prank Busters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Fight the Smears Web Site

Campaign: Michelle Obama never used word ‘Whitey’
by Nedra Pickler
June 12, 2008

Washington (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama’s campaign said Thursday that Michelle Obama never used the word “whitey” in a speech from the church pulpit as it launched a Web site to debunk rumors about him and his wife.

The rumor that Michelle Obama railed against “whitey” in a diatribe at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ has circulated on conservative Republican blogs for weeks and was repeated by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The rumor included claims of a videotape of the speech that would be used to bring down Obama’s candidacy this fall.

“No such tape exists,” the campaign responds on the site, “Michelle Obama has not spoken from the pulpit at Trinity and has not used that word.”

The site is a response to the realities of a brave new world, where information travels 24 hours a day on blogs and voters are increasingly turning to the Internet for information. It’s a particular problem for Obama, a relative newcomer to national politics who is still unknown to many voters and has been the target of persistent misinformation campaigns online. (more…)

Is it Psystar as in Sister or Psystar as in Shyster?

Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Prank Busters, You Decide

Submitted by Wayne Zebzda:

Knock Knock, who’s there? Is this company really home? Gizmodo readers

went to all the physical addresses that appeared on Psystar’s site. They found no evidence any such company had ever existed at any of the locations. One was a residence and one was a packing supply company that knew nothing of Psystar.

Recent announcements about this Apple knockoff company that will run the Leopard OS raised some interesting legal questions, hoax or not. Many wonder if Apple will sue or even issue a statement but then again, where would they send the subpoena?

Apple doesn’t really have to do anything to defend its honor, when it has such a loyal armchair detective customer base. Here’s an article from C/NET, followed by an article from Forbes that will walk you through the whole mess.

415openpromir383à—461-200.jpgSend in the Mac clones
April 18, 2008

Psystar suddenly appeared on the tech scene when it began to sell a white box PC that it says will come with Apple’s Mac OS X operating system pre-installed, the first Mac clone since CEO Steve Jobs banished them 11 years ago.

Psystar is selling a PC called the Open Computer which comes with a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB DDR2 memory, integrated Intel 950 graphics, and a 250GB 7200RPM drive.

Psystar says it achieved Mac OS X compatibility in its Open Computer by using an EFI emulator based on OSx86 software. The Open Computer costs $399 without an operating system but it can be ordered with Apple’s Leopard operating system pre-installed for an additional $155, according to the Psystar Web site. The lowest-cost Mac is the Mac mini which starts at $599.

Credit: Psystar

Rotten Apples?
Meet The Mac-Clone Mystery Man
by Brian Caulfield
March 18, 2008

Burlingame, Calif. – How’s this for a deal. At a fraction of the cost of a comparably equipped machine from Apple, a Web-based company dubbed Psystar is offering a computer you can have loaded up with just about any operating system you choose, including Apple’s OS X Leopard.

That would not be news if, like thousands of mom-and-pop computer builders around the country, Psystar were offering any other operating system. But that Psystar is allowing users to order what is essentially a cut-price Mac violates Apple’s licensing terms, which forbids users from jamming its software onto non-Apple hardware. The novelty generated a storm of press coverage–and when the company stopped being able to take orders and switched locations — accusations from bloggers that the start-up business is a scam. (more…)

Checkbook Culture Jamming

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Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Prank Busters

Update to our March 28, 2008 post “Skullphone to Clear Channel: Can You Hear Me Now?” From, via The Anti-Advertising Agency:

Clear Channel: Digital Billboards Rented, Not Hacked

Photo: Mike Fischer

The Los Angeles street artist known as Skullphone managed to get his iconic skull-holding-a-cellphone image to display on 10 prominent digital billboards throughout Los Angeles last week — leading some blogs to report that he’d hacked into the signs.

Alas, Clear Channel Outdoors, which owns the billboards, says no. “He paid to get it up,” says spokeswoman Jennifer Gery. “It only ran for two days.”

Update: Clear Channel’s Tony Alwin is unhappy about the hacking rumors. “The advertisement was bought under the assumption that it was art that was in an art show,” he says. “Any claims about hacking into our systems is false. It’s a lie, even.”

Toddler Artist Hoax

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Filed under: Parody, Prank Busters, Publicity Stunts

Web TV Hub reveals a hoax involving a 3 year old genius kid painter, finger paints and the Playmates toy company telling you where to buy Mutant Ninja Turtle toys. This is followed by a very funny spoof on the hoax entitled 3 Yr Old Genius Plant by AlaskaRobotics.

3 Yr Old Genius

3 Yr Old Genius Plant

Don’t Get Councilman Oddo Mad!

Filed under: Prank Busters

Submitted by Charlie Todd and reblogged from the Gothamist, October 9, 2007:

For some reason, Norwegian comedians thought that City Councilman James Oddo would be a perfect target for their program, Rikets Rost. Oddo, a Republican and the minority leader in the Council (he’s recently supported legislation such as banning aluminum bats and giving the Department of Transportation the authority to name streets), apparently consented to the interview because the request was to discuss presidential politics.


The Software Awards Scam

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Prank Busters

This piece is by Andy Brice from his Successful Software blog published August 16th, 2007:

all_awards2-200.jpgI put out a new product a couple of weeks ago. This new product has so far won 16 different awards and recommendations from software download sites. Some of them even emailed me messages of encouragement such as “Great job, we”™re really impressed!”. I should be delighted at this recognition of the quality of my software, except that the “™software”™ doesn”™t even run. This is hardly surprising when you consider that it is just a text file with the words “this program does nothing at all” repeated a few times and then renamed as an .exe. The PAD file that described the software contains the description “This program does nothing at all”. The screenshot I submitted (below) was similarly blunt and to the point:


Even the name of the software, “awardmestars”, was a bit of a giveaway. And yet it still won 16 “˜awards”™. (more…)

Unbending Minds

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Ever since the 1970s, spoonbending (and the bending of other cutlery, metal bars, and the like) has been held up as physical evidence for telekinesis, a form of PSI in which thoughts alone can allegedly be employed to alter the physical environment. In this episode, Michael Shermer attends a seminar on spoonbending and discovers the power of group think to actually bend metal!

David Beckham Prank Calls “Smacked of Bogusity”

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Filed under: Phone Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank Busters

beckham_1200.jpgBogus Beckham Bends Truth in L.A. Calls
August 2, 2007

Los Angeles (AP) — An imposter pretending to be soccer superstar David Beckham made a dozen crank calls to county offices to chat about charity work and drop names of celebrity friends, officials said.

… Clerk Maria Saenz and student worker Susana Guillen, avid fans of the real Beckham, “were just jumping up and down” after the first call, Saenz said.

Officials realized the calls were a hoax after Department of Children and Family Services staffers grilled the caller.

“It just smacked of bogusity,” department spokeswoman Louise Grasmehr said. (more…)

Uri Geller Gets Bent

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Illusion and Magic, Prank Busters

Spoon-Altering Psychic Has Copyright Advocates Bent Out of Shape

img_0088200.jpgUri Geller Runs Afoul of YouTube Users
by Paul Elias
The Associated Press
July 9, 2007

San Francisco – Uri Geller became a 1970s superstar and made millions with an act that included bending spoons, seemingly through the power of his own mind.

Now, the online video generation is so bent out of shape over the self-proclaimed psychic’s behavior that he’s fast reaching the same Internet pariah status as the recording and movie industries.

Geller’s tireless attempts to silence his detractors have extended to the popular video-sharing site YouTube, landing him squarely in the center of a raging digital-age debate over controlling copyrights amid the massive volume of video and music clips flowing freely online. (more…)

Michael Shermer on Skepticism and Pseudoscience, from “TED Talks”

Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Prank Busters

This video is from the TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) 2006 Conference and it lives exclusively on the TED Website. They also offer a 45.7MB video podcast of it you can download. Although there is an ad at the beginning and the end of the video, the content in between is well worth viewing. -SR

From the TED Website: “Skeptic Magazine founder Michael Shermer takes us on a hilarious romp through the strange claims we humans put forth as truth – from alien encounters to Virgin Mary sightings on pizza pies, to hidden messages revealed while playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ backwards – and explains the evolutionary and cognitive basis for these lapses in reason… (more…)

San Diego hoax expert helps fools see fakery

Filed under: Hoaxes vs. Scams, Prank Busters, The History of Pranks

This article was first published in Vyuz San Diego.-DM


San Diego–San Diego is home to many fine museums including one that doesn”™t actually exist: The Museum Of Hoaxes. (more…)