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16th June 2006
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features /  column
editor content by: editor
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webslinky: web of deceit
This week, watch your step.
“Don't believe anything you read on teh internets!!!1”

For a long time that was the cry of academics (who would only trust in the reassuringly tangible presence of books), old-fashioned print journalists (suddenly finding that their territory was being invaded by enthusiastically “unqualified” members of the public), and anyone whose hotly defended trivia knowledge has been discredited thanks to a quick look on Google.

But although there are plenty of reliable sources of information online, the fuddy-duddies do have some cause to be suspicious: the very fabric of the internet is woven from a million falsehoods.

Ignoring the altogether more sinister topic of fraudsters posing as your bank, let's look at satire. At first glance, and its network of affiliated sites look a lot like the real deal – until you apply some common sense to what it says. The parody is spot on, so it comes as little surprise that the culprits are a collaboration of experienced web satirists, including those behind the infamous Landover Baptist Church.'s contributors include members of The Yes Men, corporate impersonators who are - along with their associates, RTMARK - one of the groups some suspect to be responsible for the incredibly audacious McDonalds Interactive campaign. Whoever they are, the hoaxers used the genuine Serious Games conference as a platform to announce their fake department's separation from the parent company. Confused? Well their impressively convincing website probably won't help clear things up.

While the activists were clearly politically motivated, it's harder to place a site like Genpets, which could be making a political point – or could equally be one of the many sites for fake Sinister Scientific Corporations which now seem to be de rigeur for marketing campaigns and Alternate Reality Games.

In fact, a little internet detective work reveals Genpets to be a project by Canadian sculptor Adam Brandejs. There is no disclaimer on the Genpets site, leaving the illusion unbroken and a tiny doubt in the visitor's mind. Could it be real?

Sometimes the things you see online seem too fantastic to be true, and often that's the case. So make sure you savour the moment of “OMG!!!11” before reality sets in.

David Thair 15 June 06
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