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Hoax Alert

Fake News: NO Estimated 90,000 Cases of HIV in Vanderburgh County

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Sun, 09 Sep 2018 19:19:48 Z)

Have an estimated 90,000 people in Evansville, Vanderburg County in Indiana been diagnosed with AIDS? No, that's not true: the news was posted by some joker to a prank website and it went viral despite the fact that the website clearly says it is a prank.

The story originated from an article published by Channel22News on September 9, 2018 titled "Estimated 90,000 cases of HIV in Vanderburgh County - Channel22News.com" (archived here) which opened:

As of September 08, 2018, an estimated 90,000 Evansville residents have tested positive for the HIV virus. The federal government is calling for a state of emergency for the city. Residents are urged to get tested immediately to avoid being quarantined when the total reaches 120,000 infected persons. It has been reported that this is ...

Screenshot of https://channel22news.com/estimated-90000-cases-of-hiv-in-vanderburgh-county-2/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail where it looked like something from a real news website:

Estimated 90,000 cases of HIV in Vanderburgh County - Channel22News.com

As of September 08, 2018, an estimated 90,000 Evansville residents have tested positive for the HIV virus. The federal government is calling for a state of emergency for the city. Residents are urged to get tested immediately to avoid being quarantined when the total reaches 120,000 infected persons. It has been reported that this is ...

The actual Vanderburgh County Health Department website makes no mention of the epidemic. The town of Evansville also only has 120,000 residents so having three quarters of them infected with HIV would be national news and yet no actual news outlets make any mention of the story.

That makes sense because the site spreading the hoax is part of a network of prank sites operated by Korry Scherer from Milwaukee, WI. according to WHOIS data. The site lets visitors create their own realistic looking fake news stories to prank friends and family.

pranked.jpg

The site seems to be part of a network of similar sites. So far we've found these, but there may be others:

  • channel22news.com
  • channel23news.com
  • channel24news.com
  • channel28news.com
  • channel33news.com
  • channel34news.com
  • channel40news.com
  • channel45news.com
  • channel46news.com

The sites all come with disclaimers at the bottom of each prank:

We do NOT support FAKE NEWS!!! This is a Prank website that is intended for Fun. Bullying, Violent Threats or posts that Violate Public Order are NOT permitted on this Website.

We wrote about channel22news.com before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk
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About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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