4 min read

Online Socialites

Ioana Jelea

October 21, 2011

Online Socialites

The Dance of Death is a medieval allegory that reminds people of the inevitable (and very democratic) leveling of all walks of life at the END. Dreary as this perspective may have been (after all that was the Dark Age of human thought), it was supposed to set people thinking about the futility of aspirations to glory and wealth. Or, as today’s life coaches would put it, to teach them that “personal growth is waaaaay hotter than anything else”. Centuries have since passed and several other layers of meaning have been added to the dance of death concept to reflect countless changes in mentality. 

Recent RIP or death-themed scams perfectly illustrate these changes: we’ve now got people obsessed not only with death/execution- related photos and videos, but also with “before” and “after“ moment D testimonies.

Death with a Prior Notice?

Scam-spreading fake death announcements sprouted into the virtual world as despicable answers to the “how low can you go?” question.  

         

In these cases, celebrities’ names were illicitly used to lure their fans into subscribing to fake tribute pages or tweet the fake news and a link to gather huge audiences for malware-carrying web pages. Not funny. Not morally acceptable. But who are we to judge?

Scammers didn’t shy away from using real deaths as a pretext to keep the business going either. The example below shows how tragic stories, such as Amy Winehouse’s, can be shamelessly  squeezed for every drop of scandal.

I’m sure we all hoped Steve Jobs’ name would not make it to the scammer’s list of preferred baits. As news of the fake iPad giveaway in memory of the Apple founder hit us, we were proven wrong…the very hard way.

Michael Jackson’s name and any news on the progress of the trial aiming to shed light on the circumstances of his death seem to be a perennial source of profit for scammers. In the example below, a fake King of Pop tribute page is used to deliver a triple survey scam (and that’s just one of countless examples):

Justice on Camera [Unedited]

Recent political events connected to the Axis of Evil theory have turned live executions into a very hot topic. Looking for raw, unedited, exclusive, amateur footage or photos of the “bad guy” being killed appears to give (some) viewers a sense of participation in an act of “live” justice. What makes these scams even more efficient? Wild guess: the less likely it is for the promised video to exist or be released, the more intense the viewer’s eagerness for access to it. Case in point: the “Osama dead” fury.

History repeats, so is anyone really surprised, then, that Gaddafi’s capture and execution boost click counts in scam land? However, circumstances change as, in this case, the promised videos exist. Will that make the scam less efficient? My bets are with the scammers here. It will probably be very difficult to tell a real video from a fake one (such as the ones used in likejacking schemes, for instance) by looking at a thumbnail.

What’s funny (in a very, very twisted way, I give you that) in this example is that fake news of Gaddafi was being killed circulated on Twitter earlier this year:

This definitely adds to the mystery aura of the whole event as those who’ve fallen for it the first time, might be curious to find out whether  now it’s for real (they’re talking about it on TV so it must be, right?).

With all these new ingredients combined, having gone through our macabre lot of digital tricks, I’m sure we’re now packed with some serious food for reflection on life as well.

This article is based on the technical information provided courtesy of George Petre, Product Manager – Social Media Security.

All product and company names mentioned herein are for identification purposes only and are the property of, and may be trademarks of, their respective owners.

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