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Arrison’s job is to bring in as many of those visitors as possible. But as soon as Arrison clicked the link and started reading, he realized something was off.“I went to the web and saw that same site said Katy Perry was moving to some place in Texas, so immediately a red flag went up,” Arrison told Buzz Feed News.
In early March, a news story had the town thinking they’d landed a major VIP and tourist draw.“Clint Eastwood is Moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas” read the headline. “A lot of people wasted a lot of time on something that was blatantly false.
This is the story of one of the world’s largest and most unique fake news empires, and how it gave birth to what became the iconic hoax of the 2016 election.
Steve Arrison thought his job was about get a lot easier.
The design of each site was strikingly similar — often just the colors and the name were changed.
The text, too, was a simple copy-and-paste effort; just the celebrity’s name and location were changed from one story to the next.
’”The local focus ensured the hoaxes spread in targeted clusters, and meant someone in, say, Saskatoon had no idea that the same trick was being played on people in Pittsburgh.
Male celebrities suddenly had very complimentary things to say about the women in specific towns.
Information moves so quickly it takes a while for the truth to catch up to the falsehoods.”Beginning in late February, there was a sudden onslaught of news stories on Facebook that all claimed one celebrity after another was moving to an unexpected place.
The stories had headlines such as “Johnny Depp Explains Why He’s Moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” “Matthew Mc Conaughey Explains Why He’s Moving to Greenville, South Carolina,” and “Demi Lovato Moving to Perris, California.” The list of celebrities in the hoaxes began to expand and soon Eminem, Ryan Gosling, Rihanna, Jim Carrey, Samuel L. As the days and weeks went on, the locations also began to move farther away on the map: Vin Diesel was moving to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
As the scam scaled and hit more communities, local news websites began publishing debunkings to keep locals from falling for the hoaxes.
News outlets in Texas, Maine, Illinois, South Carolina, British Columbia, and many other places tried to stop the stories from spreading.
Many of the fake stories identified by Buzz Feed News followed the exact same pattern: They falsely reported that a big celebrity was moving to a specific town or community.