Satire news clouds the judgement of Internet users


With every April Fools’ Day comes a new wave of fake news stories, false discoveries and phony technology to dupe gullible people into believing some of the craziest of ideas.
This year was no different. With talks of catching Pokemon using Google Maps, YouTube taking credit for every single video ever posted on the Internet, a car charger powered by the flux capacitor from “Back to the Future” and new cell phones that you actually embed into your arm, it was pretty simple to spot the ones that seemed too good to be true.
But let’s not forget this is the Internet we are talking about.
Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed on any given day and chances are you’ll find one of your friends “absolutely appalled” by an idea as crazy as it is bogus, like students in Wyoming having microchips implanted in their wrists without their parents’ consent, or the opening of governmental gas stations that will distribute free gasoline exclusively to African-Americans.
Most of these “stories” come from known satirical websites like The Onion, The Daily Currant or The National Report, but with satire news gaining popularity, more and more shams are surfacing, making it even tougher to distinguish truth from “B.S.”
One of the most-shared false stories of the last 12 months concerned Pope Francis, who is arguably the most progressive leader of the Catholic Church since Jesus. A story broke that at the “secret” Third Vatican Council, the Pope declared, “All religions are true” before saying that Catholic priests could get married, women could be priests, and the “big two” issues, homosexuality and abortion, would be accepted. Although this seems like a great story, it is completely false, and a couple of clicks on Google will tell you the last Vatican Council was in the 1960s, and it was a big deal. To think that the Church could hold a Vatican Council without the media rushing over like for a Kardashian wedding is just plain silly.
While it is easy to debunk something as ridiculous sounding as Blake Griffin punching Justin Bieber right in the face, it is much more difficult to throw light on positive stories like the one mentioned above. One of the more-recent examples comes from the company HUVrTech.
On March 3, HUVrTech released a 4:32 video of a new product: an actual, working hover board a la “Back to the Future.” The video starts with Christopher Lloyd, the actor who played Doctor Emmett Brown in the aforementioned movie. Lloyd drives to a parking lot in a DeLorean and is greeted by famous figures like Tony Hawk, Terrell Owens and Moby. Lloyd then pulls out a black box containing what looks like a skateboard with no wheels, and the demonstration starts. The rest of the video shows the stars above, as well as some “pedestrians” standing on the “HUVr” and flying around like Marty McFly.
While this seems like a “too good to be true” moment from the beginning, people in the video frequently and adamantly remind viewers that the HUVr is “a real thing and not a joke.”
Since then, the video has been proven a hoax by many outlets including Snopes. A little digging revealed the video was produced by the Funny or Die company, who have played many different pranks over the years. The reaction was not exactly as “funny” as I’m sure the company wanted it to be. Many people were saddened by getting their hopes up only to have them dropped down by another Internet hoax.
And it’s understandable. Anyone who watches the video will tell you just how real and professional it looks. With great cinematography, special effects and several celebrity appearances, it’s tough not to believe in the video, especially when it constantly reminds you of how truthful it is.
A month later, I still don’t know what Funny or Die was trying to do with this video. An awful lot of money must have been spent on the creation of the video, but what was the point? It’s one thing to tell a child “there is no Santa Claus,” but it’s even worse to tell a child, “I swear to you, there is a Santa. He is absolutely real, and no matter what anyone ever tells you, he is 100 percent real.”
Internet hoaxes are relatively new, or at least their popularity is, especially with gullible people roaming social networks constantly. I’ll admit, I have a love-hate relationship with it because I do get a laugh every now and then from seeing people get worked up over the most ridiculous headlines, but I’m willing to give up that couple of seconds of laughter if it means people will begin doing a little research for themselves before they automatically believe scientists have successfully created a living, breathing dinosaur in 2014 (which is actually only a baby kangaroo, if you look closely).

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