Amid the coverage of the social media-inspired gathering at the Area 51 military outpost in September 2019 was at least one online prank stating — falsely — that people had been killed at the event.
The site, LATlmes.com (which looks enough like the URL for the Los Angeles Times‘ legitimate website to fool plenty of people) allows users to generate their own fake headlines. When unsuspecting readers click on their links, they are then “treated” to one of three music videos including “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the inspiration behind the “Rick Roll” online fad.
According to the creators, the project originated in 2015:
We wanted to have the URL look as close to a legitimate news organization as possible, and considered things like “huff.post”, or “nytim.es”, but ended up with with the incredible latlmes.com, which we are pronouncing “Lah-Tillmes”.
Of everything in this silly project, the name is the thing I’m most proud of. A two pixel difference between it and a legitimate news organization’s URL? Amazing.
Because when receiving with a message from a friend like, “whoa, this is crazy” paired with long url like http://www.latlmes.com/culture/john-travolta-assassination-attempt-after-denouncing-scientology-1, are you really gonna notice that it’s a lowercase L instead of a lowercase I?
No. No, you are not.
Matthew Roberts, the person behind the original “Storm Area 51” event page on Facebook, said in August 2019 that the online platform had taken it down for violating its community standards. However, people did indeed meet at the base on September 20, 2019. Several people have been arrested, but no one has been killed.