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International news registry opens

By JOSEPH CHRYSDALE   |   April 1, 2012 at 3:45 AM   |   Comments

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TORONTO, March 30 (UPI) -- Sunday marked the first day that anyone publishing news must register stories with the International News Forum.Org in Davos, Switzerland.

INFO is a cooperative funded by major news organizations unhappy with the preponderance of amateurs posing as journalists on the Internet, chairman Mike Riano said.

Unregistered news sites will be shut down by denial of service attacks launched by hundreds of volunteer hackers worldwide who want to do something useful, he said.

"I think most professional journalists have reached the tipping point and are fed up with the notion that writing news is the same as blogging," Riano said. "I mean, the word 'blogging' sounds like throwing up."

It will take several years for the group to sort back through archived, unauthorized Internet articles for deletion, he said.

Ha ha. April fool.

The above is yet another example of media playing pranks on April Fools' Day, whose origins are unclear but centuries old. An international news registry is just as silly as the BBC's claim last year that a news program on its Radio 4 channel would soon be available in 3D sound.

The British broadcaster is also widely considered to have perpetrated the best -- and earliest -- April Fools' Day television hoax in 1957 when a news report described and showed women picking limp spaghetti from bushes during the annual harvest.

Some viewers called the BBC to complain, but "others, however, were so intrigued they wanted to find out where they could purchase their very own spaghetti bush," the corporation's Web site says.

Early last week, UPI management sent its annual e-mail to all writers warning to be vigilant of pranks leading up to Sunday.

"Check things extra carefully. If something sounds implausible, it very likely is," UPI Executive Editor John Hendel told writers. "Check and recheck. Even if something sounds reasonable, check and recheck."

While there is heightened media vigilance around the day of practical jokes and tricks, a growing number of corporations are embracing the day to make fun of themselves in the media.

Last year, the Virgin business conglomerate owned by billionaire Richard Branson posted a phony news story on virgin.com.

"Richard Branson has bought Pluto and intends to have it reinstated as a planet," the company said. "In a universal first, Sir Richard has revealed that he has bought the former planet of Pluto for an undisclosed sum."

Also last year, Internet giant Google announced the launch of "Gmail Motion," in which a user's webcam could be used to control e-mail using body movements.

Fellow Internet giant YouTube, which was founded in February 2005, also spoofed itself last year, announcing it was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The main site featured a guest blog by former President William Howard Taft along with pictures from 1911.

In 2010, Nike spent a large, but undisclosed amount of money in an April Fools' day ad for its Nike Air athletic shoes that featured appearances of several internationally known athletes. The ad claimed the air injected into the shoes was actually air exhaled by the athletes.

One of the earliest and far-reaching April Fools' Internet pranks was spread by e-mail in late March in 1996. It asked recipients to disconnect all of their computers for 24 hours to allow for "Internet Cleaning Day" on April 1.

"We understand the inconvenience that this may cause some Internet users, and we apologize," the e-mail from a non-existent group said. "However, we are certain that any inconveniences will be more than made up for by the increased speed and efficiency of the Internet, once it has been cleared of electronic flotsam and jetsam."

Also in 1996, the Taco Bell Corp. announced it had purchased the Liberty Bell on display in Philadelphia and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. The National Historic Park was inundated with calls of protest.

Two years later, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today announcing a new Whopper hamburger had been designed specifically for left-handed people.

The normally staid National Public Radio created a stir in 1992 with an announcement former President Richard Nixon was going to run for office again after resigning amid the Watergate scandal in 1974.

NPR reported in jest that Nixon's new campaign slogan was "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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