The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
Monkeys pick cotton, a 19th-century urban legend
'Solar Armor' freezes man in Nevada Desert, 1874
The Cradle of the Deep, a literary hoax, 1929
Tourist Guy 9/11 Hoax, Sep 2001
BMW's April Fool's Day Hoaxes
Loch Ness Monster Hoaxes
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
Taco Bells buys the Liberty Bell, 1996
Jean Gauntt, the Immortal Baby, 1939
The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, 1959
Google Hires 15-Year Old
Status: Hoax
15-year old Tom Vandetta found a neat trick described on the internet: how to upload a fake press release to a free wire service, and get Google News to pick it up and disseminate it, thereby making it look like real news. Of course, he couldn't resist trying this trick out, so he decided to write a release from Google itself announcing that they were hiring him:

(I-Newswire) - 15 year old student, Tom Vendetta has been hired by search engine giant Google Inc. The student will receive a lowered salary, which will be placed into a bank account for future education, said Google CEO Larry Page. When asked what role Vendetta will play at the Tech Giant's offices, Page said he wouldnt have a role at the Main Offices. Instead he would work from his home in the New Jersey suburbs. Vendetta will be incharge of working with recent security flaw's in Google's beta e-mail service, "Gmail". Google said they first found out about him when they discovered the student's blog, at http://tomvendetta.be. The media giant said they looked forward to working with Vendetta's expertise in JavaScript and AJAX.

Soon word of Google's hiring of a 15-year-old kid was posted on Digg.com, and the attention of the internet (or at least a small part of it) turned on Tom Vandetta. As the hoax spread, Tom wrote in his blog: "My gmail account now has 130 unread email messages, as opposed to the 5 i normally get daily. My myspace has tons of friends requests, as opposed to the 3 i get monthly. This is all going out of control and I am regretting every bit of it."

Fake press releases have long been a favorite tool of hoaxers. One of the first big hoaxes on the internet, back in 1994, was the Microsoft Buys the Catholic Church press release that circulated via email. And plenty of people have, like Tom Vendetta, used the free wire services to upload fake releases. (For instance, there was that press release about Tom Cruise lecturing on the modern science of mental health that I posted about a few months ago.) All of which underlines the importance of Reality Rule 6.1 (from Hippo Eats Dwarf): Just because you read it on the internet doesn't mean it's true.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by The Curator on Tue Mar 14, 2006
Comments (18)
Google should give the kid a job in advertising.
Posted by Sole  in  Arkansas  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  12:55 AM
As an editor of my high school newspaper, I'm offended that someone with such bad grammar could issue a press release and be believed.

Or maybe it's just the obsessive-compulsive coming out in me. Eh.
Posted by Zup  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  01:03 AM
Woah there, mighty High School newspaper editor. It's very feasible that something with such "bad" grammar (IMO there's not much wrong with it, but I guess I need to be some sort of editor to see errors) can be posted on a wire service and generally believed to be true. If you read CNN as much as I do, you'll see constant typos and grammar no-nos. This is the internet, not the Holy Bible or the dictionary. Not everything needs to be perfect.
Posted by Dan  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  02:48 AM
Dan said:

"If you read CNN as much as I do, you'll see constant typos and grammar no-nos."

That's sort of the point here, Dan. Shouldn't CNN be more professional than that? I've seen that sort of thing on a lot of "professional" journalism sites and I'm just appalled by it. SOME standards would be nice, wouldn't they?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  03:55 AM
I wouldnt want to be incharge of flaw's in his grammar.
Posted by outeast  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  06:30 AM
haha, sweet, museum of hoaxes. I found this while searching my name on yahoo. My name is blacklisted from google so i was forced to use that. Also, when I want to I can use fine grammar. I was only intending to fool friends, not the whole internet.
Posted by Tom Vendetta  in  Pitman, NJ  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  11:39 AM
Honestly it's not really a big deal. As long as it's not like LoL a PlAeN cRaShD tOdAeY!!1 then it's not really that big of a deal. Moreover nobody really cares unless you really have nothing better going on in your life that you need to nit-pick.
Posted by Dan  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  11:41 AM
What's great about this hoax is that the Google news service itself distributed the fake news release.

It reminds me of what Daniel Schorr said several years ago:
"The Internet has in effect made everyone a publisher, but unfortunately, very few of those new publishers have bothered to hire editors."
Posted by Big Gary in Heavener, Oklahoma  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  02:00 PM
Your article itself is a hoax, or at least rather wrong on several facts.
From the kid's blog in question:

After searching my name on Yahoo!, I found one of the most misleading story's possible. There are several mistakes in this article that really made me laugh :D

"1) They spelled my name wrong. Haha, I really hate that, they spelled my name wrong. It just makes me mad, maybe cause for years whenever someone calls my name they always have pronounced it Tom Vandetta, but its Tom Vendetta. Vandetta sounds like the name of a Van Dealership thats involved in the mafia. Anyway, we all make mistakes [haha].

2) They seem to have made up some information maybe? Or maybe they didnt make it up, maybe they got this from there sources. But the article states

"His parents are changing their phone number and he is working to re-establish a workable online identity. On the brighter side, he has received a few emails from Google employees assuring him he has not dashed his dreams of one day working for Google, as he thought he might have."

There are a few problems with that. Up until last night, I didnt even tell my parents. They were totally out of the loop. Whenever someone would call regarding it, either A) They werent home or B) I told them it was a prank call. This story hasnt been THAT big that so many people were calling my house (lets keep it that way). The statement that a few Google employees have contacted me is only half true (only one so far, if you work for google drop me a line =] )."
Posted by Mel  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  03:57 PM
There is one point to having high standards in journalism: it makes it easier for kids to learn grammar at school.

For example: if most of what you read uses apostrophes correctly and consistently, then the rules your teacher explains for their use make more sense - you don't have to understand the rules so much as absorb the patterns of usage. But if you're always exposed to inconsistent usage, you have to either learn the rules or just give up.

Learning good grammar by copying is soooo much easier than stuffing rules into your poor brain!
Posted by Wendy  in  Wellington, NZ  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  04:06 PM
That's not true at all, at least for everybody. Everybody has different ways of learning, that's no question about that. I learned my grammar by actually paying attention in school, not by the internet. If everyone learned their grammar from the internet, everyone's grammar would be getting worse, so that's bunk. From blogs to instant messaging, the internet is filled with abbreviations and lazy spelling.
Posted by Dan  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  06:22 PM
It is getting worse, Dan. The trend started when publishers began using electronic proofreaders instead of human ones; by now even professional signwriters don't proofread their work properly - or don't know how to. Standards are a lot lower than they were 30 years ago, in both professional publishing and personal writing.

Of course you didn't learn your grammar from the Internet; you wouldn't have a chance to! That's my point.
Posted by Wendy  in  Wellington, NZ  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  09:27 PM
In terms of the fake press release, it's done rather well so I don't see why you guys are throwing a hissy fit over it. It's fine, the world is not ending, there is still order in the streets, take deep breaths,

and

chill

out.
Posted by Dan  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  09:38 PM
Who's throwing a 'hissy fit'? We're just remarking that it's a sign of the times that even a poorly-spelled, ungrammatical prank posting gets uncritically picked up and relayed to the public. It's indicative not because the lad's grammar is poor - that always has been and always will be commonplace - but because people are increasingly unable to identify poor grammar when they see it and often fail to identify spelling errors to boot.

Being unable to write clearly is a disability, of course, as it hinders expession; being unable to recognize errors is a liability for different reasons. For one thing, spelling and style can be used to discriminate between good information and bad in an information-rich culture: as one example, spelling errors and grammatical mistakes are a very effective first-stage filter in identifying phishing schemes. Literacy also remains a reliable (though not infallible) indicator or education and thus spelling and style can also constitute a first-stage filter in judging the credibility of a source.

This case is a case in point: the spelling and grammar should have alerted even the slackest editor to the probability that this was an amateurish posting.

Oh, and when it comes to grammar on the Internet... there are reliable style guides out there (hehe!).
Posted by outeast  on  Thu Mar 16, 2006  at  09:58 AM
Still whining. Alot of whining if I may add.
Posted by Dan  on  Thu Mar 16, 2006  at  11:53 AM
Heh, I think the turn this very innocent thread has taken is more then funny.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Thu Mar 16, 2006  at  05:37 PM
Seriously. These grammar nazis are hilarious, they make it sound like society is about to collapse.
Posted by Dan  on  Thu Mar 16, 2006  at  06:07 PM
It is about to collapse. OMFGZ RUN~!
Posted by Tom Vendetta  in  NJ  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  07:06 PM
Commenting is no longer available for this post.
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.