Anonymous troll made up to $7k with NASA, aliens prank vid
The tantalizing combination of Anonymous, NASA and aliens appeared across the internet in the past week, teasing the impending announcement of evidence of alien life in the universe. It didn't take long to derail the well-crafted prank, however.
Contrary to some reports, there’s no pending announcement from NASA regarding extraterrestrial life.— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) June 26, 2017
The video that sparked the media frenzy, which clocked up over 2 million views in the week since publication, followed the aesthetic of previous Anonymous videos: An ominous, synthesized voice reads a proclamation over clips of stock footage, typically with some relevance to the conspiracy theory du jour.
The man in the Guy Fawkes mask throws in some compelling quotes from a NASA science director for good measure.
Unfortunately, they were taken out of context and were actually from a far more mundane, though still significant, congressional hearing in April.
“We are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented discoveries in history,” Thomas Zurbuchen testified, referring to recent discoveries of a plethora of new planets around distant suns and the presence of some important organic chemicals on one of Saturn's 62 confirmed moons.
While the prank may just have been a bit of fun, the YouTuber responsible for the video looks to have made a decent amount of money off the back of the hype, with estimated earnings in the last month of between €470 and €7,500 (US$530-8,490). Not bad for an afternoon’s work.
“Anonymous is not a group or an organization,” the speaker in the Anonymous Global notes, in a disclaimer on his channel.
In the digital age, traditional hierarchical structures are no longer necessary for a movement to operate effectively, making online activity from standard trolling to hacktivism, and everything in between, harder than ever to pin down with any certainty.
The nebulous online hacktivist community is more akin to insurgents in urban guerrilla warfare than traditional standing armies. Any individual, at any time, can take up the pixelated coat-of-arms as quickly as they can discard it.
“While we’re excited about the latest findings from NASA’s Kepler space observatory, there’s no pending announcement regarding extraterrestrial life,” a NASA spokesman told the Washington Post in a statement.
“For years NASA has expressed interest in searching for signs of life beyond Earth. We have a number of science missions that are moving forward with the goal of seeking signs of past and present life on Mars and ocean worlds in the outer solar system. While we do not yet have answers, we will continue to work to address the fundamental question, ‘Are we alone?’”