To the casual eye, it looks like this “news” site is reporting that I’m a fugitive from the military police. I’ve allegedly escaped from “Area 51” and suggests even innocent “Travis Smith”s should be worried. I found out about this story when I received a serious-looking email with a headline and a link to this American News Journal site.
But text at the bottom of the article, and every side link on the site, reveals that the story is a viral P.R. stunt encouraging the reader to watch Sci-Fi’s new show, “Scare Tactics.”
Benign pranks are one thing, and prank shows have a long heritage. However, a prank that is pulled on many potential viewers could leave a sour taste in some victims’ mouths — imagine if Candid Camera did their tricks not on one person, but on thousands.
And pranks that mimic legitimate news can be risky, and could backfire on the sponsor; the Bejing Evening News picked up a false story about the U.S. capitol building, originally published by known satire site The Onion.
“Scare Tactic’s” site allows any class clown to send one of two fake stories: The other, revealing the identity of the Antichrist, is more farcical, if not in better taste, and perhaps less prone to boomerang on the Sci-Fi channel.
Got a site to share with me? Email firstname.lastname@example.org