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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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The viral Justin Bieber burrito photo was actually just an extremely elaborate hoax

This is the TripAdvisor shed restaurant all over again.

LAST WINTER, A British journalist named Oobah Butler decided to do an experiment. After previously working in a job where he was paid to write fake TripAdvisor reviews for struggling businesses, Butler was inspired to see how far he could take lying on the internet. 

He decided to set up a fake business on TripAdvisor, a hip new London restaurant called The Shed, which was his actual shed in his back garden. He managed to garner enough fake reviews to make The Shed London’s top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor and took photographs of fake dishes that the menu served – like an egg resting on a piece of meat, which happened to be his foot that had been cropped out of the photo. 

The whole thing was pretty absurd and genuinely very funny. You can read about it here if you haven’t stumbled across the story yet. 

Oobah’s fake restaurant went massively viral. He was invited on American, Australian and British national television and radio to discuss what had happened. Then, he got another idea. To push things even further, Oobah decided to find a few people that looked exactly like him and sent them onto these TV and radio shows so that they could pretend they were him. Every single time he did it, he got away with it. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Source: VICE/YouTube

Following in the path forged by Oobah Butler, a channel of YouTubers called Yes Theory decided to orchestrate their own fake viral story. 

They decided to hire a Justin Bieber lookalike, kit him out in clothes that Bieber would wear, and sit him down on a park bench so that he could eat a burrito in a highly unconventional manner: horizontally. Yes Theory distributed the photographs to gossip and news websites, but it wasn’t picking up any traction at all.

mi1nyvrix7u11 Source: Yes Theory/Youtube

They tried Reddit. The photo still wasn’t getting much attention, until one of their Irish pals (Conor Castle) suggested that they stick it up on r/mildlyinfuriating. Within a few hours, the photo had blown up. It started to make headlines, with many websites losing their shit about Justin Bieber’s latest (and most bizarre) scandal. 

While BBC, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, E!News, Esquire and numerous American TV networks were reporting on the story, the guys at Yes Theory were filming everything that was happening behind the scenes as they watched their story take off. 

Source: Yes Theory/YouTube

Once again, this is a huge reminder that you can’t believe everything you see, hear or read on the internet. The big question here, however, is why didn’t Justin Bieber come out and clear his name?

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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