The best new Internet hoaxes

Come on, admit it. You fell for some of these.

Fake Steve Lawsuit

Fake Steve Jobs pulled a fake-lawsuit ploy just before the holiday break last year.

A hoax within a hoax -- now that's a particularly dastardly con. Fake Steve Jobs is a blog written by Daniel Lyons pretending to be Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and one of the best-known hoax sites around. Just before Christmas vacation, the blog suddenly switched gears. Lyons seemed to break out of character, posting as himself to explain how he was being sued by Apple for disclosing private company information, and forum posts took on a increasingly empathetic tone on his behalf.

One of the reasons this hoax worked had to do with the timing. As tech workers were getting ready to pull their chairs back from their workstations for a long needed break, they clicked into a seemingly nefarious scandal. It worked because we partly want to see a rumble, and partly because we just can't stop reading blogs. (When I met Lyons at the Consumer Electronics Show this year -- by sheer accident -- he said Apple would never sue him in a million years. I suspect the company will eventually ask him to stop impersonating its CEO.)

Czech Nuclear Bomb

The explosion itself does not look realistic, but the "lower third" (video titles) are convincing.

Nuclear bombs are not even remotely funny, but this hoax had a few unique attributes beyond a mildly well-done fake nuclear explosion. Hackers broke into a Czech weather station and transmitted what looked like a live video feed of the bomb exploding as the camera pans back and forth. The transmission was then uploaded to YouTube.com, where it suddenly went viral -- mostly on blog sites, since YouTube users pretty much debunked it right away. The hackers -- who were participating in an art experiment -- now face up to three years in prison for the stunt.

Glowing Mountain Dew

Light up a bottle of Mountain Dew with household chemicals! Yeah, right.

Similar to the Google TV hoax, this is an instructional video, which supposedly allows you to use household chemicals to make a bottle of Mountain Dew glow like a neon torch.

It's a little simplistic to actually be true -- pour in the ingredients and watch the exciting results! -- but it plays on the Mentos-and-Diet Coke fountain trick that actually works and borrows from the idea in Google TV: If it's something people really want to do, they will suspend their disbelief.

It also uses clever video editing tricks, just like the Google TV spoof -- that make you think the concoction actually works.

John Brandon is a freelance writer and book author who worked as an IT manager for 10 years.

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John Brandon

Computerworld
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