The Convoy: a glimpse of a deepfakes future owned by James O'Keefe-style hoaxers

On Motherboard, Brian Merchant's (previously) new science fiction story The Convoy poses an eerily plausible future for political deepfake hoaxing -- with James O'Keefe-alikes running the show -- that skillfully weaves in elements of the Innocence of Muslims hoax with the current state-of-the-art in high-tech fakery. Read the rest

Profiles of Threatin, singer who tried to fake a European tour

To quote Kashana Cauney, in the future everyone will be canceled for 15 minutes.

Jered "Threatin" Eames is a mediocre singer-songwriter who booked a European tour by buying a fake following on social media, establishing fake promoters and labels, and hiring some cool kids to be his backing band. He fooled a bunch of places in the UK and Ireland into letting him rent their venues, but didn't count for the fact that they all talk to each other and have their own significant online platforms. It all unraveled spectacularly and horribly on the internet after Threatin played to a couple of empty halls, but now the media wants, for its own reasons, to help the faker make it. Cue extensive, fascinating profiles from the BBC and Rolling Stone.

In my conversation with the couple, they quickly admitted the hoax. ... he had something he was eager to show me - a series of emails that he said he sent out under yet another alias, a Gmail account belonging to “E. Evieknowsit”.

“URGENT: News tip,” the subject line read.

“The musician going by the name Threatin is a total fake. He faked a record label, booking agent, facebook likes, and an online fanbase to book a European tour. ZERO people are coming to the shows and it is clear that his entire operation is fake,” he wrote, including links to all his phoney websites.

“Please don’t let this man fake his way to fame... Please Expose him.” ...

“I manufactured my own destruction,” he said proudly.

Read the rest

Impressive robot praised by Russia state television revealed to be a man in a costume

State-owned TV network Russia-24 ran a story about an impressive humanoid robot named Boris that wowed attendees at a youth technology conference. Turns out, Boris the Robot was actually a man inside a commercially-available, high-end robot costume. From The Guardian:

A photograph published by MBKh Media, the news agency founded by the Vladimir Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, appeared to show the actor in the robot suit ahead of the forum on Tuesday in Yaroslavl, a city about 150 miles north-east of Moscow.

The organisers of the Proyektoria technology forum, held each year for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”, did not try to pass off the robot as real, the website reported.

But whether by mistake or design, the state television footage did just that. “It’s entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics,” an anchor reported. “Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

Read the rest

Portrait of a fake news troll and the racist retiree who believes everything he writes

In the Washington Post, Eli Saslow profiles Christopher Blair, a 46-year-old "liberal" hoaxter whose Facebook group, "America’s Last Line of Defense," is full of far-right hoaxes that he creates and then reveals, in order to humiliate the Trumpist "taters" who spread them; and Shirley Chapian, a 76-year-old retiree who believes and repeats all the racist hoaxes Saslow creates and will not disbelieve them, even when Saslow reveals the gag. Read the rest

Watch: The Yes Men's short documentary on the NRA's murder-happy nature

In 2016, the Yes Men (previously), everyone's favorite political pranksters, hoaxed the NRA: today, they've released their short documentary, which lays bare the NRA's internal culture of racist-driven fear and gun-humping murderous fantasies. Read the rest

Deepfakes has democratized the creation of extremely realistic video faceswapping, especially in porn

Late last year, a redditor called Deepfakes gained notoriety for the extremely convincing face-swap porn videos he was making, in which the faces of mainstream Hollywood actors and rockstars were convincingly overlaid on the bodies of performers in pornography. Read the rest

In California, an underground network of anti-vax doctors will write your kid a medical exemption letter to get them out of their vaccinations

After an outbreak of measles at Disneyland, California lawmakers had enough and passed SB277, banning kids from attending the state's schools unless they were fully vaccinated, and eliminating the waiver that let parents put their kids and others' in danger by signing a form stating that "immunization is contrary to my beliefs." Read the rest

Ghostwatch, the greatest TV Halloween hoax of all time

When I was a kid, home alone in 1993, I turned on the TV to find one of those live call-in shows. "Ghostwatch" was presented as light-hearted Halloween fun from the BBC, jumping between phone calls from the public, panel discussion and an on-location "real life" paranormal investigation.

In the studio was the trusted greybeard and sceptic Michael Parkinson, talking to an expert on the paranormal. In the house, engaging with a mother and two young girls, was the Children’s BBC darling Sarah Greene. Greene’s husband, Mike Smith, manned a bank of phones in a Crimewatch-style set up, with a number flashing at the bottom of the screen. If you called the number, as thousands of people did, you got through to a bank of real parapsychologists. ... Craig Charles, then at the height of his fame with Red Dwarf, was the reporter on the ground, mocking the entire enterprise...

But it was really a movie, a novel and realistic hoax. Ghostwatch (available now on DVD) headed an inch at a time from its convincing, deliberately boring reality show framing into a demonic nightmare. This was stunningly original work in 1993 and the nation was savaged by it. The over-the-top ending, intended to make it all look like hokey fun, seemed to have the opposite effect: they killed the key presenter of Children's BBC on "live" television, at the hands of a dead child molester's spirit, while knowing that the children would be watching! Or, worse, sent to bed by their parents as they realized where the show was going. Read the rest

Step right up for the incredible real-life story of the marvelous Cardiff Giant

In 1869, two men were digging a well on the farm of William Newell in Cardiff, New York when they discovered the body of a ten-foot-tall man buried in the earth. Unfortunately, the famed Cardiff Giant was actually just a statue that Newell's cousin had buried in a hoax meant to provoke discussions around religion while bringing in a ton of cash from people who desperately wanted to believe that biblical stories of giant humans were true, or were simply jonesing for a dose of wonder. From Smithsonian:

Hull was an atheist, a controversial stance for that time in American history, and “though he lacked any formal education, greatly admired science.” He wasn’t wealthy, either, and his plan for the Cardiff giant included both striking it rich and proving a point about the relationship between science and faith.

The giant was sold to a group of businessmen and went on tour. Eventually, its popularity attracted the attention of the age’s greatest huckster, P.T. Barnum. After the businessmen wouldn’t sell him their stony cash cow, Barnum created a replica and began showing it as the real thing. The owners of the authentic “giant” tried to sue Barnum, but according to Rose, the judge hearing the case just said “Bring your giant here, and if he swears to his own genuineness as a bona fide petrification, you shall have the injunction you ask for.” In other words: You can’t really have a fake of a fake.

"The Cardiff Giant Was Just a Big Hoax"

Read the rest

Alien Autopsy: the one-man theater show from one of the hoaxers!

Remember the 1995 TV program Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction that we all wanted to believe was real? Of course, the ET autopsy turned out to be a hoax, or rather, according to producer Ray Santilli, a "reconstruction" of film shot in 1947 that he had seen. Now, one of the hoaxers, Spyros Melaris, has staged a one-man show in London's East End to tell the real (?) story behind the story of the autopsy that you can watch below. From Paul Seaburn's article at Mysterious Universe:

(Melaris) claims he was the director of the film and the one responsible for creating the fake aliens and other special effects. Melaris says he met Ray Santilli, the producer and name most associated with the autopsy film, in 1995 at a music event in Cannes. Santilli later confided that he had the actual footage of an alien autopsy and wanted Melaris to make a documentary about it.

However, when Santilli showed him a copy of the alleged ‘real’ film, Melaris determined it was a fake shot on video. He says he instead agreed to make a fake version of the autopsy on film, release it as the real thing and them make another documentary on how they pulled off the fake. He hired John Humphreys, a special effects expert who has worked on Dr. Who, to make the alien’s body using his 10-year-old son as a model. Melaris bought 1940s surgical outfits, used cow, sheep, pig and lamb organs (the local butcher must have loved them) for the alien’s internal parts and spliced in footage from a 1947 newsreel.

Read the rest

Oregon police try to calm distressed citizens over alleged missing baby giraffe

Police from Beaverton, Oregon are striking down what they say are bogus claims on social media about a missing baby giraffe, according to their twitter account.

Concerns grew after a Craigslist post emerged Saturday claiming a giraffe calf named Raffi disappeared during what was likely a quest for some grapes from a nearby vineyard, according to the Oregonian.

Beaverton PD says it never received any calls from the alleged owner and is not searching for a missing giraffe, but would, should such an incident arise.  

The posting has since been flagged for removal.

Read the rest

Predatory "scientific journals" tricked into publishing Star Wars-themed hoax

Robbo writes, "A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. We know this because Neuroskeptic wrote it and posted about it on the Discover Magazine site. The paper was about Midi-chlorians and attributed to Dr Lucas McGeorge and Dr Annette Kin. Neuroskeptic takes us through the process used to create the bogus paper and the varied repsonses from the half-assed 'peer review' journals who accepted the work." Read the rest

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

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