Newspaper hoax about the gruesome results of a mass breakout at the Central Park Zoo

A new episode of Nate DiMeo's Memory Palace podcast is out and it's a good one. It's about a newspaper hoax about the gruesome results of a mass breakout at the Central Park Zoo, which Nate "turns into a comment on Fake News/Pizza Gate/etc by way of an Edward Gorey story." Nate is a terrific storyteller, and I highly recommend every episode of the Memory Palace. Read the rest

Advanced de-faking: using public sources to trace the true age of a suspected propaganda video

Henk van Ess teaches workshops in online investigative techniques; he worked with colleagues and a team of students from Axel Springer Academie to analyze a viral news video that purported to show a discarded missile launcher that had been discovered near Cairo's international airport in 2011, but only published last month. Read the rest

It's awesome to see all these "rogue" government agency Twitter accounts, but what about hoaxes?

In the immediate aftermath of the Trump administration's gag orders on government employees disclosing taxpayer-funded research results, a series of high-profile "rogue" government agency accounts popped up on Twitter, purporting to be managed by civil servants who are unwilling to abide by the gag order. Read the rest

Obviously fake "paid protester" site sets right wing media aflutter

Demand Protest, a service that bills itself as providing "deliver[ing the appearance of rage] at scale while keeping your reputation intact" purportedly pays protesters $2500/month plus $50/hour for left-wing protesters to take to the streets, and claims to have run 48 campaigns, despite having only registered its domain last month (it also displays a copyright notice that spans 2015-2017). Read the rest

Hugely successful Facebook fake news author considers himself a "satirist"

Paul Horner says he made more than $10,000 month writing fake news on Facebook that was widely shared by Trump supporters and picked up by the real press -- for example, hoax stories about protesters being paid to turn out against Trump -- and that he targeted Trump supporters as an act of "satire" to show that they would credulously share anything, providing that it confirmed their conspiracy theories about the left and the Democratic party. Read the rest

Oppps.ru: patient zero in Russia's fake news epidemic

Donald Trump did not slam the International Paralympic Committee's decision to bar Russian athletes from the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the BBC never quoted him as saying, "The decision to bar Russian Paralympics athletes was made by complete retards. These people are the real cripples." But virtually every news outlet in Russia ran a story saying both things were true, after Oppps.ru (The Optimist) ran a completely false story to that effect. Read the rest

Fake Buddha Quotes collected

I Can't Believe It's Not Buddha flags and explains the many misquotes attributed to the sage. It's collected and maintained by Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist author since 1982 and a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order.

They’re everywhere you look: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, quotes sites — even in books by well-known Buddhists. Fake Buddha Quotes abound.

To those who are familiar with the Buddhist scriptures, these Hallmark-style quotes attributed to the Buddha ring false, but it seems many people are preferentially attracted to the fake variety.

It’s hard sometimes to pinpoint why they sound fake. Usually it’s the language, which may be too flowery and poetic. Sometimes it’s the subject matter, which sounds too contemporary. The thing is, that although the Buddhist scriptures are vast (way larger than the Bible) they’re often not very quotable, or at least they tend not to have the immediate appeal that some of the fake variety has.

Bonus: Real Buddha Quotes that sound fake, such as “People with opinions just go around bothering each other.” Read the rest

Burger King workers keep smashing the windows because hoax callers tell them to

A string of hoax calls to Burger King restaurants had employees smash windows to prevent the premises from "exploding," and the fast-food chain is having to buy a lot of glass as a result.

To the frantic manager of a Coon Rapids Burger King Friday night, the choice was to act fast or face disaster.

A caller who said he was a fire department official said there was a gas leak in the building and that unless the windows were smashed, a gas buildup in the building would cause an explosion. So the manager and Burger King employees evacuated the restaurant and started smashing ground floor windows. Every single one.

Problem was, it was a hoax. The caller was no firefighter. There was no gas. ...

YouTube has at least a couple videos posted showing employees of other Burger Kings doing the same thing. Sites in Oklahoma City and Morro Bay, Calif., have also been hit by the hoax, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Read the rest

Covert scan of museum's Nefertiti bust appears to be hoax

Last month I blogged about Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, a pair of artists who released a high-resolution scan of a looted Egyptian bust of Nefertiti in the collection of Berlin's Neues Museum, which has a reputation for refusing to make data from its collection (including 3D scans) public. Read the rest

All those 2015 Halloween scare stories exposed

The "pot-laced" candy that a man from Ohio complained about was tested by police and had no traces of drugs. The razor blade in a Hershey bar had been placed there by the kid who found it. The needle in the candy bar was the handiwork of a kid looking for attention. The 16-year-old girl who said she needed 23 stitches to sew her cheek back together after chewing bubble gum with a razor blade hidden in it admitted the wound was self-inflicted.

Jesse Walker of Reason says his favorite 2015 Halloween scare hoax involves "a man named Robert Ledrew [who] told first his Facebook friends and then the police that he'd found four sewing needles in his children's goodies. This time the parent turned out to be the hoaxer: Ledrew eventually confessed to the cops that he had inserted the objects himself, claiming he'd been trying to teach his kids a safety lesson. He certainly taught them some sort of lesson: He's being charged with filing a false police report.

Read the rest

Best alien hoax ever

In 1958, this glowing extraterrestrial appeared on rural Michigan roads, freaking out drivers before vanishing without a trace. According to witnesses, the "little blue man" was just two feet tall, except when he was ten feet tall. And he "ran faster than any human."

After a police investigation began, Jerry Sprague, Don Weiss, and LeRoy Schultz, confessed to the prank. They had made the costume from long underwear, combat boots, a football helmet outfitted with flashing lights, and a sheet. They spray-painted the whole thing glow-in-the-dark blue, in homage to Betty Johnson's wonderful song "Little Blue Man." (Listen to it below!)

Police let the pranksters off with a warning.

(Hoaxes.org via Reddit)

Read the rest

Professional skeptics on misinformation & hoaxes: anti-vaxx, Planned Parenthood

Gabriela writes, "Hopes&Fears starts the week with this roundtable in which we invite four professional skeptics to discuss the ins and outs of busting a hoax. From Ben Radford, deputy editor of The Skeptical Inquirer, to Susan Gerbic, founder of Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, we discuss the real potential dangers of misinformation and disinformation in the digital age." Read the rest

A mid-century UFO hoax

One of my all-time favorite podcasts, Nate DiMeo's Memory Palace, is back and on a weekly schedule. In the latest episode, Nate tells the story of a mid-century UFO hoax.

And don't miss Nate's live shows in Seattle, Portland, and LA! Read the rest

Skinner-box rats trained to predict currency market movements

Viennese artist Michael Marcovici's Rat Traders uses reward, punishment and selective breeding to create a strain of lab-rat that can predict the movement of international currency markets. Read the rest

Vinland map, chart of Norse exploration of Americas, "proved" fake

Discovered in 1957 and hailed as the earliest map of the New World, the Vinland Map charted Norse exploration of the Americas long before Christopher Columbus. After decades of controversy, however, an amateur historian may finally have demonstrated that it is a clever hoax: the map occupies a sheet of parchment that was relatively unremarkable 120 years ago. [Sunday Times, paywalled] Read the rest

"Fake" tax-scam movie won film award

When British authorities began to suspect that a movie production was in fact a massive tax scam, the producers were forced to cover their tracks by actually making the movie. It even won an award from the 2012 Las Vegas Film Festival; an award only rescinded after tax inspectors nevertheless swooped in. The movie's name? Landscape of Lies. Enjoy the trailer! [Daily Mail] Read the rest

Reddit culture well-tuned to spot hoaxes

In professor T. Mills Kelly's class, students act out clever public hoaxes. But while Wikipedians are easily fooled, Redditors exposed the latest jape—Do you think my 'Uncle' Joe was just weird or possibly a serial killer?— instantly. Yoni Appelbaum at The Atlantic unravels what happened.

Although most communities treat their members with gentle regard, Reddit prides itself on winnowing the wheat from the chaff. It relies on the collective judgment of its members, who click on arrows next to contributions, elevating insightful or interesting content, and demoting less worthy contributions. Even Mills says he was impressed by the way in which redditors "marshaled their collective bits of expert knowledge to arrive at a conclusion that was largely correct." It's tough to con Reddit.

This isn't quite true. Reddit is vulnerable to cons: just not this kind of con. Academic hoaxes are the sort of thing Reddit can see through easily. Superficially weighty evidence doesn't trick an audience exquisitely tuned to the forensic texture of information; the site's machinery heaps attention on anything interesting; and the social milieu makes it hard for would-be hoaxers to avoid adopting a pattern of behavior ("karma whore") that threatens their credibility from the outset.

On the other hand, Wikipedia is easy to deceive because it's easy to accumulate low-profile, cross-referenced edits, and the site has a rigid, exclusionary culture that is easy to exploit once it is understood.

However, those iffy props really didn't help! To quote Redditor TruculentTravis: "The papers look falsely aged. Read the rest

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