Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet

kaylarStarred Page By kaylar, 11th Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Internet

The results of an experiment in credibility and gullibility which won the designer a Masters

The Background

About five years ago, Triond Forums was one of those must be places. At the time everyone who wrote online was there and although the majority of regular participants often became a repulsion of Trolls, lurking was a fine way to get the latest trends.

One of the 'writers' (I'll call MN) had concocted a story about the suicide of a very famous actor and had gotten over 1 Million hits in a two week period. (1c per 10 hits was the value of the day).

The main discussion was what to do to challenge that chap's brilliance. A crew decided to try the 'Whitehouse Insider'. As they hated Barack Obama their idea was to pretend to work at the Whitehouse and reveal all sorts of nasty things about him.

This was another hit.

It was such a hit it was quoted in previously reliable news sources. This was fantastic and caused great excitement. Never before had a total fabrication from Triond of all places, gained such 'credibility' that it would be quoted and treated as true.

The Forums were explosive, kudos all around for such a fantastic coup!.

The fact that a person calling himself 'Ulsterman' so anyone with Forest Gump's I.Q, must know he doesn't live anywhere near the U.S.A. could be the author of 'Whitehouse Insider', well, people are sure stupider than was believed.

This encouraged a cadre of writers to post false articles, as well as a number of social scientists to pile aboard to find their Master's Thesis.

The Method

A person I'll call 'LM" whom I have never met but know well via the Triond Forum wanted to create an article which would be false but of such a nature as to be accepted on face value as true.

LM wanted to map how long it would take for such an article to go viral or go down, to get a following or be deleted.

It was a fantastic discussion which probably was copied and pasted for someone else's Master's, because we explored every aspect of the false article, going from a disputation on Wikipedia, to advertisers creating what seemed to be scientific research but were simply ads.

After a long debate ,LM decided to focus on a minor celebrity and claim s/he was gay. The criterion was that there had to be an ambiguity so that it could be true.

No real celebrity could be used, what was desired was one of the 'stars who never made it', who would turn up on a Google, but whose career was virtually over.

LM researched the various candidates, (and I wrote articles on stars who never made it). LM was going for a Master's and was leaving nothing to chance.

At the end of a week, LM selected the 'Macguffin' (whom we'll call XYZ). Using bits and pieces pulled from various places on the web composed an article titled : 'XYZ out of the Closet' and posted it Triond.

The Results

The parameters of the 'experiment' were:

a) Post it and leave it where is/as is.

The point was to confirm that there was no checking of facts, no moderation, and as MN and Ulsterman expressed, they typed and they published. Hence LM typed and published an item that was false from first letter to last.

b) It was not Networked

The choice of a minor actor, who it was assumed would not have more than perhaps 10 Googles a week should give a fair response as to the interest in the topic and the individual, without falsely inflating the statistics with Stumble, Digg, etc.

The item sat on Triond for over a month, getting a few hits, then suddenly it became rather popular and there were many comments made by readers.

Some comments were hysterical fan guff, others were gay bashing, a few were the kind of normal response a person not under medication might make.

As LM 'had a life' and could not adequately Police the remarks, such capsule was removed.

c) It was Plagiarised

As we had seen with other items which promised hits, the article began appearing on Blogs, message boards, web sites. In some cases attribution was given, in many it was not. The Article was posted on various sites as if written by the poster.

The sites which repeated the story obtained more hits and were rated higher than the item on Triond. This is because by the time of LM's publication the definition of Content Farm had been applied.

Hence if one searched XYZ + Gay one would find one or two pages or more pages of different sites which had copied and pasted the item long before reaching the original on the 3rd or 4th page.

d) LM removed the Article from Triond.

The expectation was that once removed the plagiarizers would appreciate they had been mislead and take down their versions.
They did not.
Searches of XYZ+Gay continued to turn up the plagiarized versions of the article.

Not only were these articles getting hits, they were getting pages of comments. They had taken on a life of their own, and no longer had any relation to the Triond item.

The MacGuffin

The Actor and his 'proclivities' was the Macguffin. The article could have been "Potatoes cause Cancer", or "Alligator feces prevents wrinkles". All that was needed was a concept which would gain attention, something not posted elsewhere, something unique.

The test was how long would it take for the invention to develop this 'life of its own' and become true simply by continuing to exist?

The interesting thing is that from 2010 until present the Actor has never in any way shape or form contacted Triond or made any public attempt to have the item removed.
How do I presume this?

I have posted absolutely Courtroom provable item that were instantly removed by Triond at the first complaint.

I had done an expose on Factoidz, for example, and despite the fact every word was proven, and Factoidz was forced down by the State because it was a Ponzi, Triond, responded to a complaint made by Mike Quoc and instantly deleted my article.

All my proofs meant nothing to them. Hence, there could have been no complaints about the article LM had posted.


The plagiarized article about XYZ being Gay continue to do well on the sites which captured it.

It is read, and believed.
It is quoted.
Although the original doesn't exist any more, it is of little moment.
It was on the 'Net. It must be true.


Article, Belief, Fabrication, Gay, Plagiarism, Sociology, Ulsterman

Meet the author

author avatar kaylar
I am passionate about history, culture, current events, science and law

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
12th Jul 2014 (#)

fascinating indeed kaylar..

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author avatar Margaret Michel
12th Jul 2014 (#)


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author avatar kaylar
12th Jul 2014 (#)

It was really fascinating to be there, to see the development to see the posting, and the reactions.

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author avatar M G Singh
13th Jul 2014 (#)

Yes, so very true

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
13th Jul 2014 (#)

People have said interesting or fascinating, and I agree. What a lark to get such exposure from a false claim. Still, someone pays the price for false accusations somewhere. I hope any price paid was not too high.

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author avatar Mariah
13th Jul 2014 (#)

Brilliant post kaylar, what an intriguing course of events..
Thank you

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author avatar kaylar
13th Jul 2014 (#)

I think the actor was happy for the publicity.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
15th Jul 2014 (#)

I would assume the plagiarizers would not know the original was taken down. Nor would they care that the information was false. Clearly they are not ethical people or would not have plagiarized the article to begin with.

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author avatar kaylar
15th Jul 2014 (#)

Doing a search of xyz+gay you'll come to a pile of sites with virtually take credit for it. The thing that annoys me is why the actor didn't complain....unless he really is gay or enjoys the publicity.

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author avatar Retired
10th Aug 2014 (#)

To believe or not believe what I read on the Internet is always prefaced by a reminder to myself: Consider the source.

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author avatar kaylar
10th Aug 2014 (#)

That is correct, LeRain. What I do is if I read something, feeling unsure I'll google it, see if I can find a reliable source.

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author avatar kaylar
10th Aug 2014 (#)

Just after this article came out, LM contacted me and told me that XYZ had written on his MB that the article was false.
The article was written in 2010, today is 2014. How has it taken him 4 yars to 'respond?'

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