Let me preface this post by saying that I love Apple products. If it is stamped “Designed by Apple in California”, you can probably find one living in my house in Colorado. That is what made this particular story all the more interesting for me.
You see, a fake ad recently circulated on Twitter claiming Apple’s latest iOS 7 Software Update rendered iPhones waterproof. This “feature”, as presented in the ad artwork, claimed that the most recent iOS update enabled the iPhone’s touchscreen and home button to work together as a “thermodistribution change detector.”
Over the following days, several Twitter users inferred that they had followed the guidance of the hoax advertisement only to end up destroying their iPhones in the process. Many major news outlets picked up the story and quoted these users’ Tweets as evidence that real people (and innocent iPhones) were iVictims of one very cruel joke.
Herein lies a perfect real world case for testing our new Search API for Twitter. A wholly unplanned and unexpected event took place, and we wanted to get immediate access to the entire social conversation on Twitter. Were iPhone owners really gullible enough to try the dunk test without water wings?
Search API for Twitter Results, Keywords “iOS 7 waterproof”
1. The Hoax Originally Starts as a Text Joke on Twitter 9/18
iOS7 makes your phone waterproof
— alejandro (@AlejondroGar) September 18, 2013
2. The Text Joke Briefly Runs Rampant on Twitter 9/19
3. The Hoax Ad Challenge Appears on 4chan 9/21
4. The Fake Ad First Appears on Twitter 9/23
5. Sky News UK Runs the First Story on the Morning of 9/24.
Fact-Checking with Gnip’s Search API for Twitter
It turns out that the Twitter joke of iOS 7 “waterproofing your iPhone” predates the media story by nearly a week. Twitter users then began Tweeting and Retweeting the text joke, “iOS7 makes your phone waterproof” in volume on Sept. 19. From there, one of the rapscallions on the 4chan bulletin board posted an anonymous challenge Sept. 21 for someone to create a realistic ad around the meme and to distribute it on social networking sites.
Cue social creativity.
On Sept. 23, someone with considerable artistic talent and time on their hands took up the 4chan challenge. They posted their masterpiece on Twitter, claiming it was a legitimate hidden feature of iOS 7. The ad looked and felt Apple-ish, and the copy was halfway believable – you know, “software waterproofing your iPhone” absurdity aside. Sky News UK picked up on the Twitter discussion the next day and cited Tweets from two (rightfully) upset owners as evidence that iPhone drownings had actually occurred. The story just blew up from there as additional media sources quoted these and similar Tweets of iPhone carnage over and over again. Outrage and colorful language ensues.
“Whoever said iOS 7 was waterproof **** you.”
“OK whoever said iOS 7 is waterproof GO **** YOURSELF.”
We initially thought that the original Tweets might have come from Android fanboys looking to impersonate iPhone owners with heavily implied naiveté. Instead, payload data returned from the Search API lookup revealed that both users were Tweeting via the Twitter App on functioning iPhones. Using the Search API again, we analyzed the Twitter data of numerous similar messages and found that these “soggy” iPhones continued to produce uninterrupted Tweets days and days later.
While certainly not 100% evidence these sources weren’t authentic, I’d be more than willing to bet that not a single iPhone was harmed in the creation of this hoax. Stunt doubles and pre-broken iPhones aside, people tend to be a lot smarter than the media gives them credit for…
What did we learn?
- Hoaxes often have longer social media build-ups than you might think.
- Don’t believe everything you read on the web.
- Software updates never ever ever (ever) magically waterproof smartphones.
- Gnip’s Search API for Twitter is an amazingly simple solution for accessing all relevant Tweets (both content and counts) around an unexpected event. Our customers use the tool today for a variety of business situations where instant historical Twitter data is needed. Some examples include:
- Gathering all Twitter conversations around a competitor’s product announcement.
- Pre-populating new customer dashboards with baseline Twitter data.
- And yes, creating real-time marketing response campaigns around the wholly unexpected.
Thanks for the laugh, Fake-iOS7-Waterproof-Update-Ad-Creator!