High speed hoax:
October 10, 2001 5:16 AM   Subscribe

High speed hoax: Taking advantage of a bug in CNN's "mail this story" mechanism, a guy created a hoax page looking like a CNN news story which claimed that Britney Spears had died in a car crash. (She's fine.) He seeded the story by giving it to just three people in a chat room -- and within 12 hours it had been downloaded 150,000 times. The Internet appears to permit extremely efficient distribution of disinformation.
posted by Steven Den Beste (26 comments total)
that is one of the coolest things I have read in a long time. good post.
posted by das_2099 at 6:07 AM on October 10, 2001

For what it's worth, the prank originated at the Something Awful Forums (no longer viewable by unregistered users; registration now costs $10) Quite a few other people were in on the seeding.
This prank has inspired others on the forum to do the same; more are being planned, Project Mayhem-style. I would take celebrity death/scandal reports with a grain of salt for a while.
posted by darukaru at 6:07 AM on October 10, 2001

Speaking of hoaxes. . . . Can anyone shed any light on This?

Look just over Bin Laden's left shoulder . . . .

posted by computerface at 6:26 AM on October 10, 2001

There's a whole thread about it.
posted by darukaru at 6:29 AM on October 10, 2001

talking of hoaxes, just received this email:

> >
>> > > > To all,
>> > > >
>> > > > I have just been told this story from a friend at work, I would take it seriously.
>My friend's friend was walking in London last week and she saw a man drop his wallet. she picked it up and ran after him. once she caught him she gave the wallet to him and he was so grateful that he thought h>e would give her a piece of advice for the thanks. he was an Arab and t>old her to do herself a favour and do not be anywhere near the centre of London on the 13th of October. She was so scared that she went straight t>o
>the police. the police asked her if she would be able to identify t>he man, they gave her a book of wanted terrorists and she was able to
>> > > him
>> > >
>> > > > in the book.
>> > > >
>> > > > This is not a circular, its from me and was told to me from a
>> > > > source. tell all your friends
>> > > >
>> > > > Adrian
>> > > >
posted by asok at 6:36 AM on October 10, 2001

I love how information spreads so quickly via the web. I also am amused by what people would believe, but this seemed so legit... this is so crafty, yet scary. I am impressed.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 6:39 AM on October 10, 2001

Someone has to help me out. I've only recently signed up to post so I can't post on the main page but someone HAS to post a discussion on this:

(as taken from my Weblog)

Bert of Sesame Street fame is actually a henchman of Bin Laden??

You might think it's a photoshoped image but it's seriously the poster they are all using!
Just look at this yahoo photo.

I'm crushed, CRUSHED I tell you. I'd heard the rumors that Bert was evil but refused to believe it. It seemed as unfounded as the rumors that he and Ernie shared an "alternative" lifestyle.

Here's the full breakdown of the story

[quick followup - the AP has released a simmilar picture containing the poster in which Bert does not appear but many believe that the AP are the ones guilty of photoshopping the picture by removing Bert - Which orginization do you believe is being
posted by KnitWit at 6:40 AM on October 10, 2001

oops that last comment was supposed to be:

"Which orginization do you believe is being ethical?"
posted by KnitWit at 6:41 AM on October 10, 2001

KnitWit: pay attention, not only to the comment above but to the post mentioned above...
posted by arco at 6:44 AM on October 10, 2001

What do you expect? They call him NITWIT.
posted by jpoulos at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2001

[Plus, I could have sworn I saw this "Britney Spears" thing on MeFi within the last couple of days, but I can't find it. Maybe I saw it somewhere else... Regardless, it's funny.]

Oh, and KnitWit: sorry if I sounded snippy up there. I just meant that users should check thoroughly for previous posts, especially with "goofy" things like this. MeFi users are a wired lot; chances are a lot of people here have already explored a lot of the bizarre corners of the Internet and already discussed them here. Anyway, welcome to MeFi!
posted by arco at 6:52 AM on October 10, 2001

Sorry, this is probably my fault. Should have looked more closely for the existing bert thread. . .
Sorry Steven
posted by computerface at 6:53 AM on October 10, 2001

oops my bad (guess it's a good thing I don't have posting privliges yet. Sorry)
posted by KnitWit at 7:01 AM on October 10, 2001

There's an old Mark Twain quote. . .a lie can travel around the world twice before the truth can get it's shoes on. . .If only he'd be around for the internet, I'm sure that he'd have come up with some memorable things to say about it.
posted by Danf at 7:22 AM on October 10, 2001

I saw the threads on SomethingAwful, and the person who started the rumor did not know it was going to end up on CNN's top-ten list. That was an unexpected result of having copied-and-pasted the HTML from a real CNN page and leaving the "e-mail this to a friend" link in there. CNN was stupid in not filtering out non-cnn.com sites from their top ten list.
posted by Potsy at 7:43 AM on October 10, 2001

Did someone say "Kaycee Nicole"?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:10 AM on October 10, 2001

1. On the bad side, people will tend to believe a hoax, if it looks like it came from a trusted source.

2. On the good side, people may gain a healthy skepticism.

Should "white hat" hoaxers use some kind of "satire" tag? I'm inclined to think so. What is an obvious hoax to the creator might not be to everyone.
posted by yesster at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2001

the secret RIAA meeting in DC was also a hoax.
posted by kliuless at 8:32 AM on October 10, 2001

asok: i heard two other versions of that story. They all revolved round a non muslim helping out muslim and then being told the same good advice. One version was, they didnt have enough money for the bus, and the other was the same for their shopping bill
posted by monkeyJuice at 8:32 AM on October 10, 2001

monkeyJuice, as my email sending friend observed - why attack london on the 13th, when it will be a weekend? aparently the 'city' population drops from 12 to 2 million at the weekend, not sure how those figures work, but hey.

Danf - nice quotation.

kliuless - us 'wired' bods should get a level of 'healthy skepticism', eh!
posted by asok at 8:59 AM on October 10, 2001

kliuless: the secret RIAA meeting in DC was also a hoax

nevermind ... gave everyone a chance to bitch about the RIAA ;)
posted by walrus at 9:22 AM on October 10, 2001

asok, the reason the London goes from 12 to 2 million people from weekday to weekend is probably because when the talk about "centre of London" they mean a very small area that consists of the City of London, the old section of the city. I think a few K in each direction. It is mostly banks and financial district so at night and on the weekend it empties out.

my .02 euro
posted by plemeljr at 9:40 AM on October 10, 2001

Britney's dead? Wow, it all makes sense now...why she was the only barefoot one on the Abbey Road cover, and why if you play "Oops I did it again" backwards it plays "Britney is dead and chopped up in little pieces seeded into random flavors of Maruchan's Cup O'Noodles - Yours sincerely, the hoary host of the netherworld".

basically, just take all this crap and substitute "Britney" for "Paul".

Nostradamus predicted one day Britney would be linked to "a great man who inexplicably remained wealthy and successful after releasing a single called Coming Up". Go figure.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:16 AM on October 10, 2001

p.s. I've had that 'don't be in the city' email three times now, each time with a different city and date...
posted by nedrichards at 2:17 PM on October 10, 2001

i like the mccartney is dead meme due to the clinching argument:
'wings were shit'.
fine reasoning IMO, the rest just falls into place.

pull me up dead man
posted by asok at 4:08 PM on October 10, 2001

[Plus, I could have sworn I saw this "Britney Spears" thing on MeFi within the last couple of days, but I can't find it. Maybe I saw it somewhere else... Regardless, it's funny.]

I think you must have seen my post - I posted this hoax to the front page when I saw the article on CNN and realised it was fake - it had stuff like "Chable Network" and "All rights denied" at the bottom and a weird IP number instead of the cnn.com URL. I did a search and there was a similar hoax in April, (I think April) so I linked to that too.

Next morning I had a look and the thread had been deleted. Can anyone tell me why that might have happened? I'm clueless about the faux pas of posting I must have committed... ;) Perhaps it got removed when CNN removed the fake story I linked to.

Whatever, it's fun reading this followup!
posted by jill at 6:59 AM on October 11, 2001

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