Blogger Nate St. Pierre, who created the hoax story that Abraham Lincoln patented Facebook, explained why he made up the story in a May 10 blogpost.
As we wrote May 9, St. Pierre’s detailed May 8 blogpost claimed that he found out from the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum that Abe Lincoln “patented the basic idea” of Facebook in 1845. However, the library’s communications coordinator David Blanchette said the story was a “clever but complete hoax.” However, sites including Forbes, ZDNet and BuzzFeed fell for the story. Forbes apparently unpublished its story reporting the Lincoln claims as fact.
St. Pierre admitted that his Lincoln hoax was “100% fabricated” and that “absolutely nothing in it is true, except for the existence of the circus graveyard and the Lincoln Museum.”
According to St. Pierre, he orchestrated the hoax for entertainment and promotion, as well as to “illustrate one of the drawbacks to our ‘first and fastest’ news aggregation and reporting mentality, especially online.”
He explained that he hoaxes “because they are complex” and the equivalent of a “practical joke.” Further, St. Pierre noted that with hoaxes, “you will be found out, hopefully by your own admission at the proper time.”
Writing a “series of elements that build excitement” to the eventual hoax was part of getting people to fall it, St. Pierre wrote. And, St. Pierre noted that he included “a lot” of “clues” to readers that his Lincoln blogpost wasn’t a true story, like including the phrases “Once upon a time,” calling it a “story” and referencing P.T. Barnum.
Having his hoax published “as fact on a lot of big-name sites and news aggregators” was what “surprised me the most” about the hoax, St. Pierre wrote, highlighting a lack of fact-checking.
“I can tell you that virtually nobody checked with me to ask if it was true. I think I got a few tweets and one email the whole day asking about the veracity of the article. I didn’t answer them because they weren’t from a big news org. The first email I answered was from The Atlantic late in the day, and that turned into an interview in the early evening. The other interviews I did all emailed and/or called me.”
Hat Tip: CBS News