A trending topic on TWITTER has people up in arms. The RIP rolling hoax in which famous celebrities are “killed off” by twitter fans abusing the public trust has made waves around the globe. The words RIP Nelson Mandela appeared in tweetboxes carried by sites as conservative as Time.Com and NYtimes.com causing much consternation amongst South Africans on Saturday. Although used to the occasional scare, (in 2003 Mandela’s death was incorrectly announced by CNN.com) the country reached out to the Internet for comfort only to find somebody calling himself “Sir Kwame Nkrumah”, not the statesman, attempting to reassure tweeters that everything “was well at the Mandela residence.”
“Twitter is a very lousy serial killer! Seriously? …RIP Nelson Mandela? I just got off the phone with the man!” tweeted the person calling himself Sir Kwame Nkrumah.
According to Wikipedia the real Kwame Nkrumah, the former leader of Ghana, died in 1972.
As tweeters struggled to grapple with what had happened, the topic began trending to the number one spot on Twitter and its many associated websites. Successive retweets by people convinced that Nelson Mandela had died, were broadcast, resulting in a counter-RIP ROLL from the perpetrators, in which Justin Bieber was also reported to have shuffled off this mortal coil.
An attempt to mitigate the trending topic phenomena, with another hoax, however absurd, succeeded in turning the event into a serial killer on tweetmeme.
“RIP Nelson Mandela was stupid and disrespectful. Trying to counteract it with RIP Justin Bieber is just as ridiculous.” posted one tweeter called Kristeenah.
A tweet attributed to Andy Borowitz of the BorowitzReport and carried by the Huffington Post merely confirmed the South African online press were asleep: “Nelson Mandela just released official statement: “My friends, please do not worry. Justin Bieber is fine.”
At this time, there does not appear to be any official statement by Mandela and Medialternatives is unable to confirm whether or not there is in fact, any cause for concern or whether Borowitz is simply rolling another fast one.
The fallout is likely to be felt for some time, as Twitter tallies the damage to its reputation.”
The RIP ROLL may be compared to the equally annoying but far less alarming RICK ROLL, which is an information meme typically involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The Mandela RIP ROLL has now made its appearance with a bang in 2011 with unintended consequences — South Africans are unlikely to use Twitter when and if the real event comes along. “Twitter had recently changed their algorithms for trending topics. …. It is bad for everyone and will diminish Twitter’s authority when it comes to spreading real news.” posted Keith Dsouza of TechieBuzz
The RICK ROLL is a classic bait and switch: where a person provides a hyperlink that they claim is relevant to the topic at hand, but the link actually takes the user to the Astley video.
The link can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. When a person clicks on the link and is led to the web page, he or she is said to have been “rickrolled”. Rickrolling has extended beyond web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places; this culminated when Astley and the song made a surprise appearance in the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a televised event with tens of millions of viewers
The speed at which RIP Rolling and counter RIP Rolling occurs prevents either from becoming “Urban Legends” of the variety which create reports about the Loch Ness monster. Nevertheless, some Urban legend sites were quick on the uptake.