Ever since the tragic and mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in the early hours of Saturday 8 March, the world has been increasingly intrigued in the wake of no new information coming to light regarding the plane and the 239 passengers on board. While the world media speculates amid a vast sea of theories, the Internet is abuzz with “Joe Public” searchers joining the hunt for MH370 from behind their screens.
As with any event that sets the Internet abuzz with speculative activity, the missing Boeing 777 has resulted in many a hoax theory surfacing. One just has to go through their Facebook or Twitter feed on any given day to find these networking sites are a breeding ground for fake MH370 stories – friends and family unwittingly sharing false leads and thus driving the deception even further.
We’ve rounded up a few of the most prominent cons currently doing the rounds as the vanished Malaysia Airline passenger jet enters its 14th day of being AWOL.
This picture of a plane in the water
This is in fact US Airways flight 1549 which famously ditched in the Hudson River in 2009. Miraculously, all crew and passengers survived the water landing and Captain Chesley Sullenberger and his crew were later awarded the Master’s Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.
This satellite image showing a jet over the jungle
A university student in Taiwan set sleuth tongues wagging when this image harvested from Tomnod.com surfaced on the Internet. Experts quickly dismissed this imagery as barking up the wrong tree as the plane pictured is not the same model as the missing Malaysia Airline Boeing 777-200ER, and it is has a different paint job to that of MH370.
Courtney Love’s Tweets
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) March 17, 2014
Hole rocker and ex Kurt Cobain lover Courtney Love really surprised us with her emphatic but misguided Tweets regarding MH370. Needless to say, Courtney’s enthusiastic ramblings spawned some hilarious memes and gave spectators a laugh through the reality of the disaster.
Bermuda Triangle baloney which is actually Lion Air Flight 904
One of the earlier and more callous scams in circulation, a Facebook post claimed that missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has been found in the Bermuda Triangle with its passengers still alive and invites users to click a link to view breaking news video footage of the downed plane. The claims in the message are untrue and there is no video footage. The message is a callous scam designed to trick Facebook users into promoting the bogus material via Facebook shares and participating in bogus online surveys.
The scam message uses a photograph depicting Lion Air Flight 904 which crashed near the Bali shoreline in April 2013 – all passengers survived.
The CNN “Breaking” news story …
… Is nothing more than another insensitive scam thought up by dodgy marketers and online scammers. On inspection you will findmany of the posts are embedded with catchy phrases like “Breaking”, “Shocking Video” and “People found alive”.
The picture of Air France Flight 447
By now many are familiar with the kite livery on Malaysia Airlines’ vertical stabilizers. However, there are some that have fallen for this 2009 picture of AF447’s tailfin being pulled from the sea. In what has been likened to MH370, France’s Airbus disappeared into the Atlantic on a schedule flight between Rio de Janeiro and Paris. The first salvage of debris was made 5 days after the plane disappeared and the black boxes were recovered 2 years later. There were no survivors.
The Reddit image
This is a photo of the possible Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 debris that will reportedly be investigated pic.twitter.com/HuORqIYEQ5
— Steven Daglas (@sdaglas) March 16, 2014
Users of social networking site Reddit posted an image which they claimed to show debris from the plane on the surface of the Strait of Malacca. The area highlighted the same place where crew on a Greek-flagged oil tanker on Sunday responded to radio reports of suitcases found floating on the surface. Further investigation revealed nothing.
In his blog, malware intelligence analyst Christopher Boyd warns of MH370 hoax stories: “Similar techniques had been employed by scammers during the Japanese tsunami in 2011 and the Philippines earthquake in 2013.”
Boyd adds: “They ranged from Malware and 419 scams to fake donation pages and search engine poisoning. Anything involving a potential disaster is big money for the scammers, as there’s a split between clickers with a penchant for salacious content and those who simply want to know if a relative is okay or if there’s any more news on a breaking disaster.”
It is feared that some of the links might prompt users to take part in surveys wherein they enter their personal information which could be exploited by marketers and hackers.
As the search for MH370 is intensified and refined, the world’s eyes are now on Australia whose Royal Air Force is today chasing a possible debris sighting in the South Indian Ocean – news outlets are already calling this the best lead in the search for the missing plane so far.