Internet Hoaxes 101

By Deane Barker on May 28, 2012

There’s a class at George Mason University called “Lying About the Past” in which the students examine hoaxes throughout history, and then try to create one of their own on the Net.

Historical hoaxes have a long and infamous history and we’ll spend some time studying those hoaxes and how they succeeded (or failed). We’ll also consider the serious business of plagiarism and its consequences for our understanding of the past. And then, somewhere around the mid point of the semester, we will begin creating our own historical hoax—one we will turn loose on the general population at semester’s end to see if we can actually fool anyone.

This year, they tried to fabricate the story of someone who finds evidence that their long-dead uncle may have been a serial killer.  It took Reddit twenty-six minutes to call BS on it.

They did much better back in 2008 when they created the story of an American pirate.  Sadly, they vandalized Wikipedia to do it.