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A delightful -- but fake -- story that went superviral.

Summary: A Twitter post about a student who failed his midterms went superviral -- but it was a hoax

Gulf News Web Report

Scene 1: October 19, a professor grades his students' mid-terms test papers on a plane.

Scene 2: A nosy passenger sitting next to the professor claims to have seen the name of one student who failed the midterm exams.

Scene 3: The passenger sends out a Tweet about it on Thursday night, naming the student as a certain Taiwan Jones of "Howard", referring to the student's school or university.

The seemingly innocent tweet kicked off a perfect mix of angst, empathy and voyeurism. Tens of thousands went into retweeting overdrive, sending out messages to friends, all now on the prowl for the real "Taiwan Jones".

Within a few hours, the post had become "superviral", kicking off a micro-blogging storm on a wild goose chase to find the poor student.

"Is this you?", people asked, with the message linked to the viral tweet:

"This professor graded tests next to me the whole flight. If there's a Taiwan Jones at Howard, boy you failed the **** out ya midterm." Your name is Taiwan Jones. You go to Howard. Crap.

The next, October 20, an unverified social media account suggests that the "real" Taiwan Jones had been found - and is now thinking of dropping out of school as a result.

Here's a tweet from the handle @JonesTaiwan_:

Considering I failed my mid term, I feel like I should drop out and pursue the career of a sound cloud rapper- Taiwan Jones (@JonesTaiwan_) October 20, 2017

Until then, hundreds of thousands on Twitter wanted to believe the story was real. To add greater credibility to the story, @JonesTaiwan_ posted links to charity sites, like the Hurricane Relief Fund and a Breast Cancer Donation Link using his Twitter handle.

Most people drop there Sound Cloud/PayPal links when they go viral but we dropping charity links. Please Donate if you can! 🙏 - Taiwan Jones (@JonesTaiwan_) October 20, 2017

That drew many to post words of sympathy from countless people.

It includes one from @Barcley_, who wrote on October 21: "You may have failed your midterm, but you passed the test of being a good person with honors."

You may have failed your midterm, but you passed the test of being a good person with honors.- L (@Barcley__) October 21, 2017

Now, read this Tweet carefull from @JonesTaiwan_ and see what's wrong with it....(at least before he deletes it)

Most people drop there Sound Cloud/PayPal links when they go viral but we dropping charity links. Please Donate if you can! 🙏 - Taiwan Jones (@JonesTaiwan_) October 20, 2017

That tweet, however, gave away a definitive clue to the real identity of the person behind the handle, as one tweet pointed out.

Here's the screenshot of that post with charity links.

I'm sure someone who actually goes to Howard would know the difference between "there" and "their". "Too" and "to" as well- Sam (@____Samanthaaa) October 20, 2017

Delightful anecdote

On Friday, October 20, the Washington Post, declared: "We regret to inform you that this delightful anecdote about the power of social media is not what it seems...Many key parts of the tale do not add up."

Analysis: The viral story of Taiwan Jones, who learned he failed his midterms on Twitter, doesn't add up - Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 20, 2017

Other news sites, including unmasked the story as one manufacturered by online trolls, dismissed as narcissists and psychopaths - who lie, exaggerate, and offend in order to get a response.

Slowly and meticulously, the paper destroyed the joy this story may have first brought to social media users when they thought it was totally real.

No Taiwan Jones at "Howard"?

Howard University, a historically black college, is in the midst of its homecoming. The university's spokeswoman confirmed to Washington Post they did not have a student enrolled named Taiwan Jones.

Other colleges with "Howard" in their names, like Howard College in Texas, also confirmed they did not have an enrolled student named Taiwan Jones, as did Howard Community College in Maryland.

Another anomaly

A closer look also revealed a curious anomally: A revision history of the viral "Taiwan Jones" Twitter account, "@JonesTaiwan_" shows "with a great deal of certainty" that until very recently, this account tweeted under at least one completely different handle, "@SaucyIV_", the Post reported.

The reporters arrived that their conclusion after looking at some of the older, still-live tweets from @JonesTaiwan_, which matched those they "found in a Google cache archive of @SaucyIV_'s account from a few weeks ago".

What does this mean?

The Post said that the "Taiwan Jones" account that went super viral was very likely changed from a previous Twitter handle (i.e. @SaucyIV_) to match that of the student described in the midterm tweet.

"It's a relatively easy trick that shows up again and again in dubious viral Twitter moments," the paper said. It also works pretty well, as the hundreds of thousands of retweets on the "Taiwan Jones" reply show.

However, the Post reporters were unsure who runs the troll account, but offered some clues: they described SaucyIV as a 16-year-old kid named "Trent" who lives in Canada.

Second Taiwan Jones found: Also fake

Then they found a second "Taiwan Jones" account on Twitter, "@TaiwanJones_". His whose own viral reply to the original tweet had more than a dozen retweets.

The paper said the account is also fake. The reason: it's the alternate account of another Twitter user, @Robinxvl, who said in a tweet that the Taiwan Jones account used to be "sergi esteban," which he described as his "troll journalist" account, until he changed it to try to go viral as Jones.

@Robinxvl also posted an image of a press request sent by BuzzFeed to the "Taiwan Jones" account Friday morning, which he bragged about turning down because of his "hate" for BuzzFeed.

The Post reporter replied to those tweets asking if they amounted to confirmation that they were behind the Taiwan Jones account, then @Robinxvl deleted them.

Was story real?

So it must be asked: Was anyone sitting next to a professor grading midterms on a plane?

To get to the bottomo of the tall tale, the paper reached out to Roy Handy, the Atlanta-based photographer who sent the original tweet, in which he claimed he had observed a professor grading student midterms on a plane.

Handy, at first, declined to talk about his tweet.

The reporters told Handy that they were having trouble verifying that a Taiwan Jones existed at Howard University and that other parts of the story didn't add up, Handy replied to Washington Post :

"I cannot verify what school the student attends, which is why I said 'if' in context of the tweet."

Handy added: "I wasn't aware of how much power this relatable topic could have across the HBCU community as a whole, so I'd rather leave the tweet to live in speculation of what could be or could not be fact or fiction. Therefore, again, I cannot verify any information on this for a story to be made, but I hope you enjoyed it!"

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Oct 22, 2017
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