Beware the cyberhoax
Bogus ''Star Wars'' scripts and CNN reports clog the otherwise reliable Web
The good news: the long awaited ”Raiders of the Lost Ark” DVD comes out later this year. The bad news: Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard dies in a fiery car crash. The ugly news: Neither of these stories is true. French site DVD Furax boasts shots of ”Raiders”’ cover and on screen menus, and Lessard’s demise appeared on MTV.com — or, rather, what looked like MTV.com. Both only add to a recent rash of online news hoaxes that, even in the last few weeks, ”are getting far more advanced,” says Joshua Griffin, editor of ”Star Wars” megasite TheForce.Net. ”It’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference.”
Truth dodging bandits armed with phony sites, doctored faxes, and authentic looking letterhead stationery prey on such movie news-scoop sites as Ain’t It Cool News and Dark Horizons, which rely on anonymous tipsters with inside info. In the past month alone, Griffin received a note that seemingly originated from Ain’t It Cool guru Harry Knowles’ e-mail address; faked ”Star Wars: Episode II” script pages; and a phony Lucasfilm paycheck supplied to bolster a tipster’s spurious news scoop.
And in February, in what some call the slickest ruse yet, a new bomb dropped: word on the Net that an unknown twentysomething will star as James Bond’s ”genius nephew” in the next, untitled 007 film. The scary news: It was a CNN.com story — right down to the links, graphics, and a similar URL. An accurate report, right? Don?t bet on it: A simple redirect trick allows any Web address to appear nearly identical to a CNN.com (or EW.com, for that matter) address, lending such lies undue credibility. ”[It] sent a real shiver through some of us,? says Stax, a writer for scoops site FilmForce who insists the online press isn’t any easier to fool than its offline counterparts. But Michael Alex, VP of news at MTV News Online, says hackers haven’t taken over the news biz yet. Although Alex says he’s seen wannabe MTV pages this year pronouncing the deaths of not only Lessard but also of Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, ”there’s no plot against CNN and MTV. It’s a juvenile stunt.”
E- prankster Kyle K tells EW there is, however, a conspiracy against the scoops sites: ”The main reason for doing this was to make a fool out of [websites] that go reporting info without trying to do some research first.” Claiming to be a George Lucas lackey, Kyle K last year sent emails about a fictional ”flamesaber” used in ”Episode II” and got mentions on Coming Attractions and TheForce.Net. But flamesabers are small potatoes. ”This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of faking stuff,” says Patrick Sauriol, creator of Coming Attractions, warning that tricksters can cook up slick flicks on their iMacs and could soon post believable scenes from, say, next November’s ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” And why not? Says Kyle K, ”I never thought pulling the wool over the eyes of so many could be that easy.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark