Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Virally mucked-up

Viral videos, by definition, get shared all over the place, and most of the time it’s innocent. Whether informative, inspiring or just funny, such videos make their way around even when it’s hard to see why, or when what they seem to show isn’t reality.

Here’s the story of a supposed 3 News “thug life” reporter, and how it's not as it seems.

The video above (language NSFW for some people) has been getting a lot of attention for showing what seems to be a news reporter responding in kind to a sort of heckler.

However, it’s not quite what it seems.

In fact, the video is a scene from a comedy video posted last August by the Auckland Law Revue, and called: “The Campaign [Revue Plot Parody] ‘The Law Society Campaign’" (below). The YouTube description says, “WARNING: contains offensive content and explicit language.” The clip is about 1:10 into the video.

This is another in a series of ads the law students have made, and I’ve posted two of them (most recently, only a few days before this video was posted). They’re all a bit of stroppy fun, and since we don’t have any New Zealand sketch comedy shows on television, these are especially entertaining.

So, how did a clip from a four-month-old comedy video suddenly re-emerge as a supposed news reporter going “thug”? As Stuff reported yesterday, the clip was posted to Facebook two days ago by Brisbane-based rapper, Fortafy. As of this evening, it’s been seen more than 1.975 million times, and has been shared more than 22,000 times. The YouTube version above, on the other hand, was posted two days earlier and has been seen not quite 273,000 times. The number of views of the "thug" clip are dramatically higher than the 6,724 views the original comedy video has had so far.

So, most of the people who watched the video almost certainly had no idea who Patrick Gower is, or, if they did, they didn’t know the context. I bet most Kiwis didn’t know the context, either. So, people could easily assume it’s real, rather than just a snippet from a comedy skit.

And that’s the trouble with things shared on the Internet: It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. I fact-check things that I post, as I said earlier today, but increasingly I also fact check things posted by others. When I do, it’s either just for me or because I may want to do a post about it (like this one). I seldom publicly fact-check others (though the other day I debunked an “historic photo” posted on Twitter).

Seriously, fact-checking and debunking things shared on the Internet could be a full-time job—for many, many people. And that’s the f*ckin’ truth.

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