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Swedish firm's Apple hoax shows gullibility of online readers

August 14, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • This fake email about Apple fooled numerous online readers, including some reporters.
This fake email about Apple fooled numerous online readers, including… (Imgur )

Stockholm production company Day4 fooled portions of the tech world last week into believing that Apple Inc.  was working on an odd-shaped screw -- an effort to show how quickly people are to believe anything they find online.

Day4, as the Swedish production company is called, said it was disturbed by how ready people were to believe anything they read on the Web these days, especially because they can easily check tech reporters' facts using tools such as Google.

"Today, thanks to the Internet, we consider ourselves much more enlightened. We can discuss and examine the source in a way that was not possible in the past. But are we really aware of all information flowing up over the net?" the company said on its website

The company decided to try an experiment that would drive the point across, and with rumors of the iPhone 5 in full swing, it decided to pull a fast one on Apple, its fanboys and reporters.

Day4 created a rendering of a screw with a weird, asymmetrical head. The screw was supposedly designed to keep Apple users from opening their products. With Apple's track record of keeping controlled environments, this wasn't too hard to believe.

Day4 had a plausible story, and now it just needed a way to get it out.

The company attached the photo of the screw rendering to a fake email that read as though it was from a source within Apple. Day4 then uploaded the picture to Imgur, and shared it as a link on Reddit in a post titled "A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws.”

"Then we waited ..." Day4 said on its website.

It took less than 12 hours before the Reddit post got to tech reporters.

Cult of Mac was the first to post, and it was shortly followed with stories by Yahoo, Wired and MacWorld as well as videos on YouTube and talk on social media.

Day4 managed to fool a good portion of the tech world, and in the process it made some observations about how rumors are perceived. The company said the screw rumor became more easily believed as it was reported by sources other than the original Reddit post.

There was skepticism among journalists but the rumor was still reported. Most people commenting on articles, however, didn't pause -- deeming the reports accurate, Day4 said. And on social media sites, "people talk about the image like it's a truth. Critical thinking vaporized."

Day4 apologized to anyone who felt cheated by the hoax, but the company said it hoped its experiment causes people to become more thoughtful about what they see on the Internet.

"In this case, it was about a new type of screw, a relatively unimportant news," the company said. "But for us it raises a concern about how we consume information today."

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