Everybody running websites is always chasing after more traffic because traffic equals money and thus the more traffic you get the more money you make (I’ll explain it later dad). So I’m writing my ass off in this blog to build a solid amount of visitors so that hopefully by the time I’m 70 years old I can retire in a tiny apartment on Bali.
Now I can understand that people are not happy with the prospect of having to wait that long or with the final reward and so they think of better and more efficient ways to gain traffic fast. Now shocking news about celebrities is always good for a lot of traffic and when it’s “user-generated” it’s even better.
But let me come to the point, trending on twitter today was #RIP Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy supposedly died in a freak snowboard accident, which is far from the truth. Besides the fact that my hero (“I know you! you’re the fuck-you man!”) is still very much alive, he wasn’t even close to any ski-resort in Switzerland. Nope, but the news is still published on a site calling itself “Global Associated News” but operating under different domain names. Normally I would link to a site but in this case I chose for a screenshot for obvious reasons, I’m not giving traffic to those guys.
In the fine print of their websites is says in ridiculous fine print:
“about this web site. this story was dynamically generated using a generic ‘template’ and is not factual. Any reference to specific individuals has been 100% fabricated by web site visitors who have created fake stories by entering a name into a blank ‘non-specific’ template for the purpose of entertainment. For sub-domain info and additional use restrictions: FakeAWish.com..”
So here’s how it goes. FakeAWish offers two fields in which you can fill in a celebrities first and last name and than it will suggest some fake stories which you can publish through their websites. These are the ‘story’ suggestions I got for Eddie Murphy (btw, of course nothing published!):
- Eddie Murphy dies after falling from cliff in Austria
- Actor Eddie Murphy hospitalized after traffic altercation
- Luxury yacht sinks off coast of St. Tropez France Eddie Murphy reported missing
- Eddie Murphy is new Masturbation World Champion!
- Eddie Murphy dies after falling from cliff in New Zealand
You can then choose which one to publish and it will appear in their network looking pretty real with their “Global Associated News” logo. Now when someone starts tweeting that news using these sites as a ‘source’ and people start retweeting without checking the news on other websites it will quickly become trending and give the website loads of traffic accompanied by some nice income from advertising.
But hey, do you remember Jeff Goldblum falling of a cliff in New Zealand? And Charlie Sheen, Owen Wilson, Adam Sandler and now Eddie Murphy all dying in a snowboard accident? All came from this exact same site and the “articles” were to the letter exactly the same, but that’s what you get when you work with story templates. In a morbid kind of way it’s fascinating how a few templates and some simple websites make global headlines so many times without even refreshing the templates.
Legally they probably didn’t cross the line because of the fine print and the fact that they let their visitors “generate” and publish the news, but morally it’s as sick as it can get. Richard Hoover from Atlanta set up these websites 7 years ago and in the past received letters from lawyers representing celebrities like Sergey Brin whose name was linked to a “prank” article with the title “Sergey Brin Is New Masturbation World Champion!”. But Richard doesn’t seem much harm in what he’s doing to which he refers as “just a prank” and helping over the hill actors get some publicity. He also blames visitors for not reading the 7 or 8 pt fine print on his websites. To me it seems like Richard Hoover is making a living from just a dozen really short story templates that get picked up every now and then for already 7 years but of course amplified by the success of Twitter.
Now it’s no secret I’m anti censorship and filtering but can we please make an exception for this guy? This has nothing to do with humor or freedom of speech, this is plain sick and should have no place on the Internet, time for the giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter to tweak their filters.