Another Day, Another Viral Lie

Don't believe anything you read or see on the Web—at least not at first glance. No, this is not about Anthony Weiner's initial claim last week that his Twitter account was hacked.

A report circulating on the Web today about a woman who had the faces of her 152 Facebook friends tattooed on her body has been followed by other reports claiming that the story—and the viral YouTube video of the inking process—is a hoax. PCWorld,, TechCrunch and other online outlets reported today that YouTube user Suzyj87 had her friends' faces tattooed on her arm; later in the day came reports that it was a stunt engineered by Dutch design and marketing company Pretty Social. The tattoos were temporary. So they say. Is that too a lie?

Knee-jerk reaction on the Web is no laughing matter. All brands and organizations are fair game for pranksters, who can easily send a PR team into crisis mode by posting a fake video on YouTube. There is a dark side to constant monitoring of mentions of a brand—too quick a response can play right into a prankster's hands and wreck one's credibility at worst and make one look foolish at best.

All communicators—mainstream media, bloggers, PR pros—will have to learn to step back and do smart research and perhaps even pick up a phone before responding to any story pitch or seemingly dire report, factoid or video.