Conning teh interwebs

31 March 2009

Idiot Forever is a work of genius and it's only a few posts in. In search of teh lulz, a late teen in the US* wrote today about how he conned the Sun into running a story about a love cheat being caught by Google Street View through poor taste in hub caps. Apparently he did so by pretending at one stage to be 'top media lawyer' Mark Stephens (are there any un-top media lawyers?), not realising that there was a top media lawyer called Mark Stephens.

If you're already confused, stop now. It only gets worse from here.

It's a striking coincidence when you consider that late last week top media lawyer Mark Stephens (the real one, it seems) wrote a column for the Times about how his firm received instructions from an irate wife who had spotted her errant husband's hubcaps on a familiar Range Rover parked outside a ladyfriend's house at a time "when he said that he was away on a business trip".

Ah yes, blinged-up hubcaps, Range Rover and "business trip". These are the ones that spin backwards aren't they? The mark of a true businessman. But I digress.

On the assumption that the house doesn't have a calendar as a giant garden feature, we have to assume that someone is making at least part of this story up. Street View pics can be as old as a year going by the one that shows my street. But I reckon we can be pretty sure that Idiot Forever didn't conjure up the name of Mark Stephens out of his head or with the help of a random name generator, unless it's a name generator called Google.

By the way, the picture that Idiot Forever offers up isn't from Street View but the satellite imagery used for Google Maps. Try finding a hubcap in a picture taken from 50 miles or so straight up. That's part of the charm of this part of the hoax: he's conning his own readers several times over while they lap up the schadenfreude over the way a tabloid got taken.

The open question is whether it's Mr Idiot Forever who emailed the story to the Sun who then contacted Mark Stephens who then bunged the anecdote into his column or Stephens thought an anecdote about Street View might liven up the column a bit and was then hijacked by Mr Idiot Forever in an attempt to claim a hoax, thereby hoaxing the Intertubes. Or there really is an irate wife with a photographic memory and an incredibly accurate diary of her husband's movements on any given day.

The more this story rolls on, I'm inclined to believe the last one.

* None of these things may be true. She may be in her late fifties and living in Barnsley. But the bit about the lulz is right, I think.

** I posted a couple of comments at Idiot Forever which are still in moderation, despite being posted ahead of a couple of others that are now online. Rather than lose them to the ether here is number one:

"Striking coincidence how you picked the name Mark Stephens just days after media lawyer Mark Stephens (OK, I’m assuming they got the real one) wrote about his firm having received instructions about a case involving Street View and a Range Rover in the Times. I think that would be the Times of London in your neck of the woods.

"But we’re in a world where hardly anybody, except for SJG above has noticed that Street View pics are mostly six months or more out of date, especially the ‘real’ Mark Stephens, it seems. So, a hoax about a hoax? Brilliant.

"Pip pip. We still say that round here doncha know."

And a reply to "friend of Mark Stephens" Laura Marcus:

"Didn’t you read your friend’s column in the Times?"