In case you missed it here is the run down. Greenpeace and the Yesmen established a webpage ArcticReady.com, and the twitter account @ShellIsPrepared as a part of a complex online prank. Launched in June, ArcticReady.com looked so authentic at first glance it takes a moment or two to realize that something is off.
The site is very user friendly with a lot of interactive features including a meme generator that a vistor can use to create their own ad. You can see the most popular ones here. In effect this brings the visitor in on the prank and has helped the entire site go viral, because who doesn’t like a snarky meme?
Then there is the the twitter account. To be honest I was taken in by the @ShellisPrepared twitter account at first. As I read all I could think was, “what a disaster, doesn’t Shell know that they don’t fight trolls by just openly responding with messages saying that they want people to stop retweeting?”
Just this morning, the fake account threatened legal action on everyone who had RT’d a tweet.
Okay, I can’t take this anymore. NAMES OF ALL RT’ERS ARE GOING TO #SHELL LEGAL. Walking there now.
— Social Media Team (@ShellisPrepared) July 19, 2012
Then again, I have seen enough people who simply do not understand how to battle flamers and trolls online that it was just within the realm of possibility that some employee with the best of intentions was adding fuel to the fire. According to the NYPost and other media outlets, I wasn’t the only one taken in.
According to an article on Forbes.com, Shell might have a good case under international trademark law if they wanted to pursue it. At this point Shell has not brought legal action and it doesn’t appear that they plan to. Which might be the smart since a big lawsuit would bring more attention to the hoax and possibly start a PR fire that would make the situation worse. Their statement on the issue can be found here.
Right or wrong, the execution of this hoax can be considered by many measures well executed. But, was it the right thing to do? Does this kind of hoax do any real good for Greenpeace? Will they bring more people to their cause, or was this just a one off amusement? Does it really help to get a message out about an issue or are they preaching to the choir? Have they crossed a line? Should the rules on this sort of thing and the misrepresentation it presents be more clear?
No matter which side you take, the Shell hoax is a pretty big wakeup call for not believing everything you read online. Well, and that begging for mercy and no retweets is the fastest way to get tweeted all over the place.
Hey…reader. Please don’t retweet this article…
Editor’s note: The original published article has been edited. The commentary removed reflects the views of the editorial staff, not the author.