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The Strange Emma Watson Photos Hoax

After Emma Watsons UN Women’s speech, and her launch of #HeForShe, itself a ‘viral marketing’ effort aimed at supporting her cause, a strange thing happened. Male 4Chan users were allegedly angry at the speech and threatening to expose images they had hacked of Emma Watson. Even more bizzarely, they had set up a website and domain emmawatsonyouarenext.com to reveal this with a countdown timer and this was reported in a blaze of publicity covered by major T.V. news outlets and in the paper print. Everybody believed there really were sick people out there that would react so viciously to a speech and were also that organised and obviously stupid to register a website like that within days of the speech, not to mention that they were also expert hackers with compromising photos ready to hand.

It turned out that when the clock finally counted down, there were no photos and instead a very different message appeared by a company called Rantic Marketing. It was a very sinister, and immoral hoax by a viral marketing agency. Even odder, that agency tried to justify it’s actions by calling for internet censorship and tried to start its own social viral campaign supporting a petition to Barrack Obama to protect celebrities from such online leaks and censor the internet as well as shut down 4Chan. And even more oddly than that, the viral marketing company is also a fake. What we have learned so far is that Rantic Marketing is a fake marketing agency employing methods known in the trade as ‘black hat SEO’. It appears that Rantic is another group known as SocialVEVO, according to Business Insider.

SocialVevo is claimed to be a ‘black hat SEO’ company that originally paid for views to appear on YouTube accounts, boosting their visibility and ad revenues. After YouTube wised up to these techniques, and some large companies had their number of views reduced by millions, these ‘marketers’ have moved on to viral marketing by picking up on certain themes and assumptions and timing controversial announcements to trigger media coverage. No wonder marketing has earned a bad name, and it’s time these cynical exploitations were legally challenged. It’s also a cautionary tale for journalists to maybe not be so gullible and easily manipulated by viral marketers.

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