Earlier today I noticed someone tweet a bizarre article. The headline read “Marcus Bachmann Cries ‘Call Me Caitlyn’ After SCOTUS Ruling,” and the story made sweeping allusions about the identity of Michele Bachman’s husband.
Even more bizarre, upon first glance it seemed to come from The New York Times — or at least that’s what the URL indicated.
But, it actually didn’t. This story came from another website: NYTimes.com.co., masquerading as The New York Times. Notice the extra ‘.co’ at the end of the URL there? It’s there specifically to trip you up.
The archives of this website — which admittedly does look like an elementary student coded it — show dozens of fake news articles. All of them are topical, not too outlandish to be completely discounted, and propagate intentionally misleading information.
In some cases, these posts could be argued as parody. There are a slew of fake news websites that do parody correctly, namely The Onion and Clickhole. But this fake New York Times website’s content is neither smart enough nor does it indicate in some way that it’s not true. In fact, it is intentionally trying to dupe people into thinking it’s the New York Times.
It seems to have been around since February, but is just now beginning to get some attention. More people seem to be reposting its articles thinking they’re real. Media blogger Jim Romenesko wrote a short post Sunday about it entitled “Paging New York Times Lawyers!”
These sorts of websites are nothing new, of course. There have been numerous sites trying to propagate false information around the web, seemingly just for the chaos it makes. One famous website — eBuzzd — was storied for the successful death hoaxes it created, given that it looked identical to TMZ. eBuzzd’s fake stories included the deaths of Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight and even the beloved Betty White.
But NYTimes.com.co stands out because of its truly insidious URL. According to Romenesko, Facebook has yet to become hip to this fake content, and has even been suggesting other fake NYTimes.com.co content to read.
If this continues — and neither Facebook nor the real New York Times act — this could become quite confusing to unsuspecting readers.