Less than a year after The Social Network debuted in 2010, a freaky, enhanced horror short gave a hint of the nightmare that Facebook had become.
The digital experience, Take This Lollipop, showed how easily a hypothetical serial killer could realistically hunt his prey using information gleaned from Facebook. (In this case, the prey was: you.)
The horrific project was as clever as it was chilling, and it came with a message that proved eerily prescient when, years later, the extent of Facebook’s data breaches and data misuse was made public.
Now, creator and The Forest director Jason Zada and his tech partner Jason Nickel of Imposium are back with Take This Lollipop 2, an equally timely sequel for the era of deepfakes and webcam hijacking.
Part of the motivation behind Zada’s follow-up is the conditions of life in the pandemic.
“In the last seven months, there has been a major technological shift in the way we communicate,” the director tells Fast Company. “We turn on our webcams every day and communicate with strangers, business colleagues, schoolmates, and family. Combine that with the ongoing threats of deepfakes, voice/text AI, identity theft, and there seemed to be a lot of scary things looming.”
With Take This Lollipop 2, Zada has managed to stir up all the looming scariness into a witches’ brew of terror that plays like an interactive challenger to the Unfriended franchise. Users turn on their webcams and find themselves inserted into the utterly familiar sight of a four-quadrant Zoom chat. And just as in real life, there may be an uninvited extra guest in the chat. What follows is a fitting update to the original experience, one that accounts for some of the developments that have happened in the nine intervening years.
“I think we’ve all become increasingly more technologically savvy, while becoming increasingly more comfortable with the amount of information that exists about us online,” Zada says. “Privacy has become a lot more important, hence the reason we were unable to use a platform like Facebook to make a really entertaining sequel. Also, it seems like the amount of different platforms we invest our time in has really diversified. When we did the original Lollipop, Facebook and Twitter were the major social media hubs. Now people are scattered across everything from Twitch to Discord to TikTok.”
While many viewers will surely be jarred by what happens in the film, Zada doesn’t expect that his demonstration of their vulnerability will have any more of an impact on their behavior than the information that’s already out there.
“If people really understood how much data all the technology companies have on each of us,” he says, “it would make you want to delete your digital self.”
Try out the Take This Lollipop 2 experience, if you dare, here.