TMZ: YouTube Stars Charged With Swatting … After Bank Robbery Pranks. “YouTube stars Alan and Alex Stokes are in very real trouble for allegedly faking a series of bank robberies … they’ve each just been hit with a felony charge. Authorities say the twin brothers, who have 4.81 million subscribers on their Stokes Twins YouTube page, staged a pair of fake bank robberies in Irvine, CA back in October, one of which resulted in an unsuspecting Uber driver being held at gunpoint by police.”
CNET: Rickroll service spices up Zoom meetings with Never Gonna Give You Up. “Zoom fatigue is real. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed much of the world into endless loops of virtual meetings, but there is a light in the Zoom darkness. Creative technologist Matt Reed has created a Rickrolling service that summons Rick Astley and his catchy Never Gonna Give You Up hit into your Zoom meetings.”
Wirecutter: How I Use Alexa to Dunk on My Kids. “I will stoop as low as it takes to fool and delight them, and Alexa has all the built-in tools I need. Should you want to fight back and own your kids like a boss, you need to check out Alexa Routines—little customizable commands you can create that tell Alexa to say or do pretty much whatever you want.”
I don’t want to mention every challenge or trend that people on social media will try, but this one looks dangerous and the victims do not consent — it’s a prank. Lifehacker: Warn Your Kids About This Dangerous TikTok Challenge. “I yearn for the innocent days of the Ice Bucket Challenge, circa 2014, when the worst we did was pour icy water over our own heads to raise awareness for ALS. Now, in the latest viral social media challenge, two people trick a third person into thinking they’re simply standing in a line and jumping up and down together. But when the person in the middle jumps, the people on either side of them trip them in mid-air, sending them crashing backwards to the ground.”
MEL Magazine: An Oral History of Rickrolling. “Rickrolling is a bait-and-switch prank where someone posts a link that seems relevant to whatever discussion they’re having, but then the link redirects to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ The prank of doing a bait-and-switch on 4chan is one of the oldest pastimes of the site.”
MakeUseOf: How to Grab Someone’s Attention by Sending Full Screen Messages. “Ever needed to send a message to someone online and really wanted to get your point across? They might ignore a simple direct message on Slack, and an email might sit in their inbox for days. You need another way. If you’re looking for an alternative to get someone’s attention, why not try a full screen message? Through a simple service called BigAssMessage, you can easily make this a reality. Let’s take a look at it.” Simple and LOUD. Might use this to remind my husband when it’s time to roll the garbage cans out.
New York Times: Filling Oreo With Toothpaste Earns YouTube Prankster a Jail Sentence. “It was a humiliating video that fueled outrage on social media. A YouTube prankster filmed himself offering a homeless man in Barcelona an Oreo cookie filled with toothpaste rather than cream. Now, the prankster, known as ReSet to his followers on YouTube but whose real name is Kanghua Ren, has been handed a 15-month prison sentence and must pay 20,000 euros, or about $22,300, compensation to his victim.”
CNET: YouTube updates guidelines to address dangerous pranks, challenges. “The Google-owned video-sharing site said Tuesday it had updated its community guidelines to clarify that content containing pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury violate YouTube policy prohibiting content that encourages violence or dangerous activities. The updated policy comes amid a spate of Bird Box challenges, in which participants go around wearing blindfolds.”
Vox: Inside Venezuela’s YouTube prank economy. “Venezuela makes sense as the epicenter for paid pranks. The country is in shambles — saddled with a rapidly atrophying economy and a penniless government. Inflation has risen by an incomprehensible 833,997 percent in the past 12 months, and the commercial consequences are outright dystopian. For instance, the Guardian reports that a chicken in the country currently costs about 14 million bolívares. Naturally, some Venezuelans have turned elsewhere — like the loose pockets of bored American teenagers — to make ends meet. Slime stunts and pie stunts don’t require a ton of overhead, and Betsy doesn’t hold back when I ask her how Fiverr contributes to her overall livelihood.”
Tubefilter: Barcelona-Based YouTuber Faces Prison For Pranking Homeless Man With Doctored Oreos. “If you thought YouTube pranks had already revealed the lowest levels of human decency, prepare to be stunned: a Barcelona-based YouTuber named Kanghua Ren is in serious trouble with the law after carrying out a prank in which he filled Oreo cookies with toothpaste and fed them to an unsuspecting homeless man on camera.”
CNET: April Fools’ Day 2018: Web pranks already off and running. “Are you on your toes? You need to be. With April Fools’ Day almost here, plenty of companies are trying to pull fast ones on us all. The April Fools’ Day timing is particularly weird this year since it falls on Easter Sunday. Companies looking to make a splash before everybody is distracted by Easter egg hunts and chocolate are rolling out their hijinks on the early side.” I loathe early April Fool jokes.
Gizmodo: Popular YouTuber Gets Arrested For “Prank” Removal of Real Stop Signs. “The stupid thing that landed him in jail was dressing up as a road worker and removing two neighborhood stop signs. In the video, he and his friends laugh as cars go through the intersection without stopping. And… that’s it. For whatever reason, someone determined that the intersection needed a stop sign for safety reasons; he decided that it didn’t and the prank is over.” Happily without any traffic accidents.
Last one and I’m done for the year: TechCrunch has a roundup of April Fool pranks. There are 23 at this writing and go way beyond Google.
Mashable: How teens are pranking your Facebook News Feeds with random events. “Seen any strange events popping up in your Facebook News Feed lately? Maybe something very mundane, like a niche event at a school you’ve never heard of? Or perhaps something a bit more unusual, like worm-charming or mushroom-growing classes? Well it’s not advertising, and it’s not an accident.”
Apparently pranking Google Maps is just a regular thing now. From The Guardian: ‘Chamber of Rats’: Mexican parliament renamed in Google Maps prank. “Pranksters changed the name of Mexico’s lower house of Congress to the ‘Chamber of Rats’ on Google Maps on Tuesday in the latest dig at the political class during a testing start to the year for the country’s government.”