WHAT: A master class in trolling, which resulted in scores of people Googling “How to join ISIS.”
WHO: Hilarious twitterer and writer Stefan Heck.
WHY WE CARE: Let’s break down what ‘s happening in this tweet. The picture on the left looks to be a screencap of a post about Google’s new initiative to thwart ISIS recruitment. The image on the right is another screencap, this one implying that if Google users look up “How to join ISIS,” the search algorithm will instead lead them to “World’s smallest horse.” (The world’s smallest horse is apparently a 14-inch pinto stallion named Einstein, and he is beyond adorable.) The actual text of the tweet is a deceptively earnest “Amazing. Well done, Google.” My personal reaction to seeing this collection of images and words was slightly skeptical amazement. It seemed like something cool that might exist, and stranger things have indeed happened. (It feels weird to casually use that expression now.) Apple’s iPhone 7 unveiling was going on simultaneously, with news of questionable technology hanging in the air already. I stopped short of actually trying out this preventative measure, though, skepticism winning the day. It turned out to be the right move. A lot of other people did not suspect anything fishy in Heck’s ultra-dry trolling tweet. Enough of the 7000+ retweeters fell for it, in fact, that there was a substantial increase in Google searches for “How to join ISIS.”
Even those suckered by this prank would have to admit that it’s just as hilarious as it is cruel. There’s a lesson embedded in all of this: Don’t believe anything you read ever, or you will almost certainly end up on the National Security Agency’s watchlist.