One tactic frequently employed by purveyors of fake news is to disguise their misinformation in the dressings of a legitimate news outlet. A number of fake news websites, for instance, decorate their pages with the official (but unaffiliated) logos of genuine news publications and use URLs that seem at first glance to correspond with the landing pages of legit news sources.
In January 2019, this scheme was taken to the next level as an anonymous party published a fake print edition of the Washington Post and distributed it in the downtown area of Washington, D.C.
Ian Kullgren, a reporter with Politico, shared a photograph of this impostor on Twitter:
Ryan Reilly, a reporter with Huffington Post, also shared a few images of this fraudulent newspaper:
For comparison’s sake, here’s an e-replica of the actual front page of the Washington Post distributed in Washington, D.C. on 16 January 2019:
The Washington Post’s PR team confirmed that these newspapers were fake:
In addition to printing an impostor of the newspaper, a fraudulent website, My-Washingtonpost.com, was also launched where an e-version of the fake paper could be found. One oddity of this impersonator is that it lists a future date, 1 May 2019, as its publication date. This fake newspaper also contains a self-referential story entitled, “Fictional Washington Post Eerily Predicted Real Events.”
This hoax was reportedly perpetrated by authors Onnesha Roychoudhuri, L.A. Kauffman, and the “trickster activist” collective the Yes Men. A blog post on The Yes Man website claimed responsibility for the fake papers and included a few alleged quotes from Kauffman and Roychoudhuri explaining the reasoning behind this ruse:
“The story this paper tells is more reasonable than our current reality,” says author Onnesha Roychoudhuri, who created the paper together with author L.A. Kauffman and trickster activist collective the Yes Men. “And it’s anything but far-fetched. We’re already seeing unprecedented levels of protest and resistance. Now we just need to ask ourselves: What’s next? This paper offers a blueprint to help us reclaim our democracy.”
“This newspaper is a fantasy,” says Kauffman, “but it’s rooted in both reality and scholarship. Our stories build on real-world resistance to Trump and insights about how ordinary people can dislodge an unfit leader.”
Kauffman also shared an image on Twitter showing these papers being distributed in front of the White House: