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Why social media can’t recognize fake viral video

Every viral it’s the same: netizens forget the long waits between updates.  The moment an episode has played out, they begin clamoring for the next.  Like the Twitter and Facebook sharing of The Dark Knight Rises url to launch the movie’s website by slowly building the first image from the movie: Tom Hardy as Bane.  The movie will not open until July of 2012, yet a mere week after this feast of activity, an astonishing number of people believed “the next viral” had arrived in the form of a series of YouTube videos.   That’s one still shot to three videos in slightly over one week.  It should occur to anyone that, at that rate, the entire movie would be revealed months before its release.

Those who are most active in the social media that feed virals should be the first to recognize how easy it is to fake the trappings.  Anyone can affix a hashtag like #thefirerises to a tweet advertising a link, and anyone can register a YouTube account or Facebook page with any given name.   In the rush to “break the story,” netizens seldom weigh the credibility  of a claim.  Consider:

Continuity

The alleged Dark Knight Rises videos feature GCN newscaster Mike Engall, played by Anthony Michael Hall, whom the Joker killed in The Dark Knight.  It is curious that presumed fans of the movies did not suspect virals that don’t observe the continuity of the previous films.

Timing

A few have noticed the timing is suspect.  The alleged virals appeared almost simultaneously with two major announcements sure to dominate Batman topics in social media:  Rocksteady’s Catwoman Trailer and the Reboot of DC Comics.

Breakouts:

Rocksteady’s Catwoman trailer for Batman: Arkham City, revealing Catwoman will be a playable character in the highly anticipated sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Its timing the week before The E3 Expo is no accident, and reveals how professional promotional campaigns roll out with respect to the calendar.  More »

DC Comics announced their much-needed reboot of all characters and continuities and relaunch of all titles.  The long-term mishandling of Batman and his related characters, Catwoman in particular, has been instrumental in the mass-defection of long-term comics fans and subsequent failure of comic shops during the economic downturn.  There is little question that the comics giant understands it must be poised to take advantage of interest The Dark Knight Rises will bring to these characters if it is to survive.  It’s failure to take advantage of the unprecedented popularity generated by The Dark Knight and its viral in 2008 is widely speculated to have brought about the restructuring which placed the comics division under Warner Bros. control rather than the Time Warner publishing arm.  A second failure could well mean a permanent shutdown of print comics, rather than allow the rogue division to go on damaging valuable corporate properties.  More ».

The 2007 viral for The Dark Knight was orchetrated by 42 Entertainment.  It is confirmed that of this writing, the company has not been contacted by Warner Bros. to do The Dark Knight Rises and the current #thefirerises campaign is the work of another firm.  It has been reported that much of the 42 Entertainment staff involved in TDK viral have left, so it is possible that the same people are involved at a different (as yet unknown) firm.  More »

Yet the timing that relates to dominating the news cycles is minor compared to the timing building anticipation about a film more than one year from release.  A savvy viral watcher would be much more inclined to tag the quietly registered therisingfire.com displaying nothing but a low flame.  One suspects true viral sites, like the movie’s official website thedarkknightrises.com will remain unchanged for month, giving up their secrets with excruciating slowness.

Instant Gratification versus Work

All one has to do to retweet a message is press a link.  It takes no effort to achieve the instant thrill of being in the know.  You found these videos before your friends, you were the first to bring them the news.  What glory!

Yet most virals, like the wildly successful “I Believe in Harvey Dent” campaign offer a mix of click-simple episodes and puzzles requiring actual thought.  With “The Fire Rises” hashtag release, users got their first glimpse of Tom Hardy’s Bane without having to tax themselves, but they also got a sound file which plays when you visit the website’s homepage.   Many have remarked that it’s creepy, but no one has downloaded it and analyzed it.  No one has remarked that it’s a very large file for its length and deduced there’s something in there.  No one has even suggested that they might be expected to take the time to unwrap the present they’ve already been given, rather than assume 3 more have been dropped into their laps.

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