Lying, deception, trickery... There are numerous reasons why someone would tell a lie on the internet, and many more reasons why they'd be caught out. Some of the most embarrassing moments online tend to be those cringeworthy 'gotcha' incidents. And it's not just celebrities' slipups that gain notoriety; we're talking about the average people who achieve their own brand of infamy for what would become cases of high-profile social media deception. Of course, once someone is caught as a liar, it can be difficult for them to rebuild their reputation - after all, we're constantly reminded that what we post online is around forever.
According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that the average person habitually lies several times a day. Granted, these lies span from the little white sort like nodding and pretending you’re listening to someone, to telling your friend their hair looks good when it really doesn’t. And then, of course, there are the major lies - like where you work, or whether you’re being faithful to a spouse. Now, put those lies out there on the World Wide Web and even the tiniest lie can become something much bigger than anyone would ever anticipate.
Here, we've taken a look some of the biggest lies caught on social media. Some of these lies may not seem particularly dramatic but once the liar was caught, they had to deal with their humiliation going viral online. The following six stories are not only amusing, but cautionary tales for the digital age.
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6 Facebooking Lawyers – July 2009
Judge Susan Criss joined Facebook so that she could reconnect with old friends as well as family, while promoting her judicial campaigns. Soon enough, her coworkers began adding her as a Facebook friend, including lawyers who may be standing before her bench.
A lawyer working on a case that Criss was overseeing requested a continuous due to her father’s death, which the judge granted. But Criss was on that lawyer’s friend’s list, and she saw posts of the lawyer's partying and drunken late night antics from the weekend prior to the judicial request - it was evident to the judge that the lawyer lied about her circumstances. While the lawyer remains unnamed, Criss advises anyone in the legal field who's on social media to be especially careful when proceeding with a case - because a simple status could mean winning or losing - or even losing your job.
5 Terri Sprout – June 2011
Sometimes lies have the ability to ruin someone’s life. 19-year old Terri Sprout sent police on a 147 strong manhunt after she claimed that an unknown assailant sexually assaulted her while she was walking home from a party. After the authorities went through her Facebook page, though, it was discovered that she had had consensual sex with a man with whom she was conversing on the social media site.
Despite being caught, Sprout stuck to the lie for six weeks before eventually admitting that the rape allegation was entirely fabricated. Turns out that Sprout’s parents were in the process of cutting her off due to her drug habit (that cost about £300 a day) - it seems she was aiming to garner some sympathy through the falsified tale. Originally, Sprout was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail, which was suspended for 12 months, as well as being ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. Luckily in this case, the man avoided being falsely accused and Sprout paid the consequences of her actions. When she was asked why she would lie about something so horrible, Sprout said that she was trying to find a way to get help.
4 George Mason University – 2012
What if you attended university and got to take a class that specialized in lying about history and creating internet hoaxes? Well, that’s exactly what the students learned in T. Mills Kelly’s class at George Mason University. The course was appropriately titled, “Lying About the Past”. The students in Kelly’s class took to Wikipedia and completely fictionalized stories, articles and topics on the pages. Once they were discovered, they were encouraged by Kelly to continue the deception as a way to teach the public how gullible and susceptible to misinformation we are. For several years, the fabrication continued - until a group of students spilled the beans on Reddit.
3 Jordan Miller – December 2012
If there's one mistake that people need to avoid in their search for work it's lying on their resume. And if there's any social media website that has the network and power to expose your lies, it's Reddit. So when someone is suspicious of an employee, it can be easy to use the website for the digging around for information. That's what one Reddit user did, who had concerns with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s social media director Jordan Miller. The user known simply as “A Concerned Taxpayer” got a hold of Miller’s work resume through public records and posted it on Reddit. On her resume, Miller claimed to have graduated from Columbia College, but a representative from the school replied and confirmed that Miller did not graduate from the school. Upon exposure of her lie, Miller quit her job and released a statement saying that she never intended to deceive the university and that she was very sorry for her actions.
2 Sagarika Ghose – April 2013
What you say on uber-popular social media network Twitter has the ability to reach millions of people with the help of the “retweet” button. So when Sagarika Ghose, who is the Deputy Editor of CNN-IBN, was dissatisfied with two speeches given by Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, she went a bit overboard by claiming - on Twitter - that Modi didn’t stay and take questions. But turns out, that Modi did stay to take questions from journalists - for 35 minutes. While this may seem like something rather minor, this fabricated comment was a big mistake for someone involved in the media who has a lot of exposure. Whether it was a blatant lie or due to ignorance, Ghose’s statement hurt her credibility as her mistake was all over Twitter in a matter of minutes.
1 The Rock Star Accused - 2014
The most recent and high-profile of the lies caught on social media was also, potentially, one of the most destructive. World-renowned singer-songwriter and music producer, Conor Oberst, is a favourite among teen girls the world over. But his reputation was on the line when a fan posted a story - under the 'comments' section of popular female-interest website 'xojane' - accusing him of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. Her comment linked to her Facebook page, meaning the accusation was far from anonymous as, it seems, she had originally intended. The accuser, 'Joanie Faircloth', was reportedly notorious in certain circles for lying on social media, but when this particular lie came to the public's attention, Conor Oberst vehemently denied it and filed a libel lawsuit against the 'sickening accusation'. The singer was forced to cancel gigs, reportedly lost a contract worth hundreds of thousands, and was vilified by some former fans. After ignoring legal requests to retract her statement for months, in July 2014 Faircloth finally released a public retraction and apology. In recognition of the hugely destructive nature of this particular lie, she stated "I realise that my actions were wrong and could undermine the claims of actual sexual assault victims and for that I also apologise."
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