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Hoax Alert

Fake News: Alien Enthusiasts NOT Shot Dead At Area 51

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Fri, 20 Sep 2019 17:12:26 Z)

Were some alien enthusiasts shot dead during today's "Storm Area 51" event? No, that's not true: the source of the story was not the LA Times but a prank site designed to look like it.

The story originated from an article published on the LA TLMES (with L, not I) on September 20, 2019 titled "Alien Enthusiasts Shot Dead At Area 51" (archived here) which consisted simply of a video of Rick Astley singing his signature "Never Gonna Give You Up" song.

So far the raid, which began as a joke, seems to have been peaceful:

Area 51 Raid: They Come in Peace, So Far

What started as a joke has attracted visitors from all over the world to tiny, desolate Nevada towns. Hundreds of people in search of aliens, bragging rights or just a good time have descended on a desolate Nevada town, answering the call of a meme-inspired Facebook event encouraging them to "storm Area 51."

Screenshot of https://www.latlmes.com/breaking/alien-enthusiasts-shot-dead-at-area-51-1

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Alien Enthusiasts Shot Dead At Area 51

This is what the site looked like when the article was clicked:


Here is the Wikipedia definition of Rick Rolling, in case you haven't been on the internet for very long:


Rickrolling, alternatively rick-rolling, is a prank and an Internet meme involving an unexpected appearance of the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song " Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a type of bait and switch using a disguised hyperlink that leads to the music video.

The website www.latlmes.com (not www.latimes.com, notice the lower-case letter "L" instead of the "i") is a prank website where anyone can upload a headline and pick a video to go with it in order to fool friends online. It appears to be the work of @realjeffkeen.

We wrote about latlmes.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

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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