Man pulls an epic ‘fake news’ prank

In a world full of fake news, a Columbus man pulls an epic ‘fake news’ prank using his talents.

Josh “TI” Herald’s friends liked to speculate what he was up to when he left his job at American Electric Power in 2010, to become a freelance videographer and sound engineer. Due to his love of the show “Breaking Bad” and his advanced level of science, they liked to tease him that he was “cooking meth.”

Though they joked with him about it, no one believed he would become a criminal. Herald saw this as an opportunity to pull off the prank of a lifetime. On April 1, 2016, his prank went live. His prank seemed so real that his family and friends thought that he maybe did turn to a life of crime when they saw a news report that said he had been arrested for making meth.

The epic fake news prank

About a week before, Josh purchased the domain wbns10news.com, not to be confused with 10TV.com, the real WBNS website. He then used software that allowed him to use real 10TV video about a drug bust, added a fake prison photo and shots of his house and other footage of his basement that he made look like a meth lab.

Josh did various things to make the shots look authentic, such as not mowing his grass, not showering for a few days before taking a mugshot and placing trash inside and around his home. Josh didn’t skip any details. He even hired a voice actor to narrate the story.

Josh launched the breaking news on fake website that he had made look like 10TV’s that included the video he made as well as information about the story on April Fools Day 2016. 

He recruited three friends to spread the fake news on Facebook and even changed his voicemail to say that his phone had been disconnected. He thought that this story would stay within his friend circle, but it blew up.

His family had contacted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the neighborhood watch group contacted 10TV and hundreds of people on Facebook were sharing the story. 

Word got to 10TV and the vice president of corporate security tried to contact him. But, before he could, he received a cease-and-desist email from the network’s attorney, Jones Day. 

They asked Josh to immediately take the site down, which he did, and to transfer them ownership. Unfortunately, the domain wasn’t allowed to be transferred for 60 days due to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regulations. 

Given he only met one of their stipulations, the attorneys said that they would sue Josh for up to $150,000 for copyright infringement.  The lawsuit never came, but 10TV was awarded the site in Aug. 2016 after they filed paperwork with ICANN’s dispute-resolution process.

Now Josh has became somewhat of a star. He’s been featured multiple times in Columbus Alive and on July 24, 2019, his story was featured on Vice.

When we spoke with Josh, he said that he didn’t regret the prank. Herald lamented, “I would definitely change on how I release it, as far as talking to my family, and letting them know ahead of time that there would be a prank site on video on April 1st. “

Herald said as a result of the viral video, some new opportunities have come his way. He added, “After I did that prank, I had a few people reach out to me to create videos. And that’s worked up to creating my own production company, doing promotional videos and such. That wasn’t the intent, but I’m thankful.”

What’s next for Herald? Herald concluded, “I’m Still contemplating what the next prank might be. It will take a while to figure what could top what I’ve already done, if I even can.”

Vice video from July 24, 2019

Circleville Online – Man pulls an epic ‘fake news’ prank

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