Here’s another great reminder for journalists to check their sources. A 22-year-old Dublin student fooled journalists around the world when he posted a fake quote on French composer Maurice Jarre’s Wikipedia page. The fake quote soon appeared in obituaries published by The Guardian, BBC Music Magazine, and The London Independent among others. The incident was later named one of Wikipedia’s 10 biggest hoaxes in its first 10 years.
The Fake Quote
“One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear,” was the phrase that Jarre was quoted as saying.
It’s a great quote. However, these words were never actually said by the Oscar-winning composer known for his work on Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and Passage to India. They were written by Shane Fitzgerald, an undergraduate student at University College Dublin.
Immediately after Jarre died, Fitzgerald posted the quote on Wikipedia as a globalization experiment. He wanted to show how journalists use the internet as a primary information source and how information is shared across the Internet.
“I saw it on breaking news and thought if I was going to do something I should do it quickly. I knew journalists wouldn’t be looking at it until the morning,” he told the Irish Times.
Fitzgerald has reservations and debated the ethical implications of using Jarre’s death as a social experiment. However, he carefully wrote the quote so as not to distort any aspects of Jarre’s life.
Results Of His Fake News Experiment
Fitzgerald was amazed by the result of his social experiment. Not only did the quote appear on blogs and social sites, but it also made its way into mainstream news publication.
Fitzgerald’s fake news experiment remained undiscovered for weeks until he finally started contacting media organizations. Several organizations including The Guardian have posted both a correction as well as an article about the hoax.
Erased From Wikipedia But Not The Internet
The fake quote is no longer part of Maurice Jarre’s Wikipedia page. However, you can see traces of it in the edit history from a Dublin-based IP address. And while many publications have either removed the quote or posted updates, the quote can still be found on many of blogs and websites all over the Internet including IMDB, MovieFone and France In London among others.