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Gossip By Algorithm
Friday, January 31, 2014 - 12:20 PM
This is embarrassing to admit, but I got fooled by an algorithm this week.
I was googling a celebrity (I am a cool and busy person) and landed on the website Mediamass.
Mediamass is a gossip site, pretty much like any you're used to seeing. Garish pastel colors, stories about engagement rings, sex tapes, cheating and lurid deaths. Except Mediamass is entirely fake. The site creates stories about celebrities according to a few set templates. So you can read a fake story about actor Vin Diesel's leaked online nudes, and read the identical story about most other celebrities his age. Another template you see a lot is the story about a star's dog recovering from surgery (TV's Joe Mantegna wrote in to set the record straight about his phony dog).
Mediamass's About page suggests that the site's been built as satirical media criticism. They proudly trumpet every time a mainstream news outlet falls for their shenanigans. But whoever runs the site refuses to out themselves. The Kernel did an investigation awhile back that mostly hit a dead-end, although they think the site could be a project by a Chinese art collective.
I'm not sure Mediamass works particularly well as satire. It mostly just seems like lying for lying's sake. I will say though, that if you spend enough time on Mediamass, you really gain an appreciation for how your enjoyment of reading celebrity gossip (assuming you do enjoy reading celebrity gossip) is completely divorced from the truthfulness of that gossip. A few times, I caught myself feeling whatever prurient thrill you get from reading gossip, and then having to remind myself that this information was even falser than the stuff I'd usually read.