The Great, and Inadvertent, Siberian Tiger Hoax of 2016

It all began innocently enough and after only a few days, ended with 458,500 people reached, inquiries from government agencies, worried hikers and a large number of very amused people.

As I had many times before, I recently posted what I thought was an entertaining and obviously made-up post on one of my Facebook pages, World Trails Foundation. If you visit the WTF site on Facebook, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Admittedly, and in all modesty, I have to say that the photo is one of my better efforts. In addition to disclaimers on the page indicating that WTF is a fictional organization, etc. I wrote into the photo description (below) some lines that I was sure would reveal that this was all in fun. Over a period of just a few days, it turns out that a LOT of people didn’t bother to read the caption, much less investigate the World Trails Foundation. The post was shared widely and took off like wildfire. The numbers of people reached exploded exponentially while my wife and I looked on in awe. Eventually, the U.S. Forest Service in the Portland Regional Office and the Okanogan Wenatchee Forest Supervisor’s Office were fielding inquiries from a worried public, a prominent news outlet and from other agencies with field-going personnel in the region.

Just as quickly, if not more quickly, than it took off, interest and concern over the post evaporated like last night’s rain in the morning sun. Word finally got out that the story wasn’t real. I think much of the credit for that goes to the many observant readers who left very funny comments on the post, some of them humorously critical of those who believed the story.

My co-workers were vastly amused over it all and my wife and I were left shaking our heads over the strangeness of what happened. WTF gained a lot of readers though, and that’s not a bad thing. And I gained greater insights into how modern society processes information. It’s rather frightening and explains a lot about what’s going on in the political arena these days.

As a postscript, got into the act and declared the tiger story false. Well duh!

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.46.18 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s