On one day of the year “fake news” is only to be expected – and this first of April is no different.
As brands, embassies and media outlets compete to raise a chuckle with their sham announcements, here are some of 2017’s best spoof stories.
1. Trump buys Irish high-rise
If you believe the Irish Times, Dublin is to get its very own “Trump Tower”. “Trump Dublin is expected to be completed by the end of 2018,” it exclusively revealed.
Extra credit should go to whoever completed the joke with a fake tweet from Donald Trump: “Bought a small tower in Dublin, Ireland. We are going to build an awesome hotel in Dublin. It will be totally great. Love Ireland! Great country! #trumpdublin”.
2. Russian hackers on demand
Inspired by claims that Kremlin-sponsored hackers tried to rig the US election, Russia’s foreign ministry shared “a new answering machine for Russian diplomatic missions abroad” on Facebook.
“To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent, press 1,” the fake switchboard message suggests. Your other options? “Press 2 to use the services of Russian hackers”, or 3 “to request election interference.”
3. Germany to go GMT
The scamps at the UK’s German embassy tweeted that Germans would shortly vote to “leave, or remain in” Central European Time (CET). “A replica of the Shepherd Gate Clock in Greenwich would be placed atop the World Time Clock in Alexanderplatz, Berlin, in a frivolous symbolic gesture,” the writer deadpanned.
The clues were there for linguists, however – the surname of the “government spokesperson” quoted – Frau Sommerzeit – translates as “Summertime”.
4. Triple-decker plane
Emirates airline almost had us going with the claim that it’s planning to unveil a triple-decker plane. Why? Time zones. The UAE gets to 1 April before the UK and without that all-important date-stamp… could it possibly – somehow – be true?
No, is the answer. The Dubai-based carrier has not designed a plane including “a swimming pool, games room, gym & park”. Our sympathies to the 6,800 excited people who re-tweeted that…
5. Canine cabin crew
Meanwhile in the Antipodes… Virgin Australia will be the first airline in the world to employ dogs as cabin staff, the company announced on Twitter.
While less useful in an emergency, these little guys might have been a loveable distraction at 40,000ft.
6. Google Gnome
Google has clearly decided April Fool’s pranks don’t contravene its mantra “Don’t be evil”.
The tech giant got a head-start on its comedy competitors by revealing “Google Gnome” – a sort of do-it-all outdoor assistant – ahead of the big day.
“Google Gnome is like having a tiny, little meteorologist at your beck and call,” the GoogleStore claimed.
The sullen character “comes programmed with the ability to take charge of your backyard tools,” it enthused.
Or, for the curious: “Ask Gnome all kinds of questions, like: ‘what’s the difference between cirrocumulus and cumulonimbus clouds’, ‘why is humidity the worst’, and, for windswept hair in summertime photo shoots, ‘which way is the wind blowing’?”
The jokers confessed in the small print: “Google Gnomes are real, but only in our hearts – for now.”
7. Alexa for pets
Not to be outdone, Amazon breathlessly broke the news of “Petlexa” – allegedly an animal-friendly version of its voice-activated personal assistant, Alexa.
“Now your dog, cat, or favorite pet can communicate with Alexa just like you do,” the firm promised, – even including an instructional video.
Reader, it was all a lie.
8. Attenborough does Grime
The BBC dipped a toe into the jovial April waters with a mocked-up BBC Three documentary, purportedly starring national treasure David Attenborough. The subject? Grime music.
If that seems unlikely to fool anyone, we’d like to introduce Stormzy, one of the urban genre’s brightest stars, who fell for it hook, line and sinker.
According to the man himself, he sent a savage direct message to BBC Three on Twitter, airing his views.
“Public apology,” the red-faced MC confessed as the penny dropped.
9. Norway and Sweden aren’t keen
In Scandinavia, some editors are concerned that in an era of outlandish, fact-free headlines, April Fool’s Day stories could muddy the waters of truth even further.
Oyulf Hjertenes, editor of the Bergen Times, one of Norway’s largest papers, told the BBC it was time to take the journalistic high ground instead.
Magnus Karlsson, editor-in-chief at the daily Smalandsposten in Sweden, agreed. In his view, April Fool’s stories could be devastating for the credibility of local newspapers in particular – a price too high to pay for a quick-fire giggle.
Readers inclined to their view might enjoy the following – our favourite “weird but true” stories from Fake News Day.