This being April 1, it’s practical joke day. The ‘Fools holiday’ has been around for centuries, and is celebrated by japes and tomfoolery across the world. The internet, where people can read nonsense 365 days a year, becomes a particularly silly place on April 1, when it is inundated with joke news, with websites trying to get us to believe stories that seem, and are, unbelievable.
Google was a step ahead of the game, declaring on Sunday March 31 that Youtube had reached the end of its shelf-life and that all along the Youtube project had been a competition scheduled to end on April 1, 2013. The staff at Youtube released a video explaining that they would be looking through all the videos uploaded to the site in its eight years of existence, in order to pick a winner.
Still pulling our legs, Google also dreamt up Google Nose, its “flagship olfactory knowledge feature” that allows users to search for smells through a database of aromas.
Another joke from the internet search giant is Google Treasure Maps, where users are invited to “search for clues” among maps left by “infamous” pirate William Captain Kidd, clues that – once pieced together – will lead to treasure.
Twitter also got in on the April Fools act telling its users that they would now have to pay $5 per month if they wanted to use vowels in their tweets.
Across Europe’s websites there was plenty of false (we hope) news, including an article on Euractiv claiming that the European Union was banning croissants in its institutions as the crescent-shaped patisserie was causing offence in the predominantly Muslim EU-candidate country Turkey.
Another story from the same website tells us that European Commissioners have agreed to take a 25% ‘solidarity’ pay cut. The Cypriot president, and this is definitely for real, announced last week that he would knock off a quarter from his own salary at a time when his compatriots are reeling from the terms of the bailout for Cyprus’ banks. So a European Commissioner salary cut would not be so far-fetched then, surely? Unfortunately, this appears to be another ‘fake’ news item, as Euractiv directs us to a dubious-looking press release from the “April Fools News Agency.” What a pity.
Sometimes the line between fact and fiction, real news and fool’s news, is confusingly blurred. For example, take this story in The Daily Telegraph in the UK, which reports that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith supposedly insists that, “if he had to”, he could live of the £53 (63 euro) per week that the UK government will be giving people on welfare. A series of welfare cuts comes into force in the UK today, prompting the opposition Labour Party to refer to today as the start of ‘Black April’. That story seems not to be a joke; there are several other media sources in Britain also quoting Duncan-Smith as saying he could get by on the daily £7.57 (9 euros) that welfare claimants are expected to live off.
Corporations have also been joining in the fun. Sony, for example, announced a new range of tech gadgets for pets.
Similarly, phone-maker Nokia published a press release to launch a microwave that “stops the food from rotating when you look at it, and it automatically adjusts the temperature depending on how hungry you look.”
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