Don’t fall for ‘Poke­mon’ hoaxes as fake news gains ground

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ABBY OHLHEISER

WASHINGTON: Poké­mon Go is a phe­nom­e­non. Nat­u­rally, this means the mo­bile game has in­spired a pa­rade of hoax sto­ries, many of which seem to come from a sin­gle sketchy web­site with con­nec­tions to one of the more no­to­ri­ous faux news or­gan­i­sa­tions on the in­ter­net.

Car­tel Press’s home page is cov­ered in sto­ries about Poké­mon Go – some based on true events, oth­ers wholly made up. No, a teen didn’t kill his younger brother “be­cause he thought he deleted his Poké­mon”. No, Poké­mon Go didn’t cause a ma­jor high­way ac­ci­dent be­cause some guy stopped in the mid­dle of a high­way “to catch Pikachu!” (at least, not yet). No, the Is­lamic State did not take re­spon­si­bil­ity for “Poké­mon Go’s lo­gin prob­lems; server is­sues”. These sto­ries are fake, but many of them aren’t out­side the realm of the pos­si­ble. A teen did find a dead body while play­ing Poké­mon Go and there are some much more cred­i­ble re­ports of Poké­mon Go- re­lated in­juries out there caused by the game, which was re­leased in the US less than a week ago. In Mis­souri, po­lice have said four peo­ple were tar­get­ing armed rob­bery vic­tims in the St Louis area us­ing the aug­mented-re­al­ity app over the week­end.

Hu­zlers de­scribes it­self as “the most no­to­ri­ous faux­tire en­ter­tain­ment web­site in the world” and it has per­fected the art of the sen­sa­tional but plau­si­ble fake story. Car­tel Press is owned by Hu­zlers, which de­scribes its con­tent as “satire”. In an in­ter­view last year with Fu­sion, Hu­zlers’s founders claimed they weren’t de­lib­er­ately try­ing to trick peo­ple with their fake sto­ries, al­though their busi­ness model ap­pears to be based on get­ting peo­ple to share sto­ries about ma­jor news events by hit­ting the sweet spot of sen­sa­tional plau­si­bil­ity.

“Most of (the sto­ries), we keep in mind that (they’re) so shock­ing, we’re go­ing to be shocked our­selves if they be­lieved it,” Hu­zlers founder Pablo Reyes told Fu­sion, “We don’t try to trick peo­ple in­ten­tion­ally – but if they get tricked, they get tricked.”

Al­though some of the fake Poké­mon head­lines on Car­tel Press sound plau­si­ble, the ar­ti­cles them­selves quickly give away their own fak­ery to any­one who ac­tu­ally reads them (which, we know, isn’t how shar­ing news ar­ti­cles on the in­ter­net works any­more).

The story about that (fake) ma­jor high­way ac­ci­dent caused by a guy who re­ally wanted that Pikachu has all of the specifics of an ur­ban le­gend. The story car­ries a date­line of “Mas­sachusetts” and its au­thor cites “the of­fi­cer Fredrick Jones” as a source. As Snopes notes, the photo il­lus­trat­ing the story comes from a Colorado ac­ci­dent in 2014.

The made- up dis­tracted driver, how­ever, does have one pretty great made-up quote:

“S***, if you wanna catch them all,” the fake 26-year-old La­mar Hick­son never said, “you gotta risk it all so I put my car in park and started toss­ing these balls.” – Washington Post

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