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    The Emma Watson Nude Photo Leak Threat Was A Viral Hoax

    Into the shady world of the black online economy we go...

    On Monday, rumours began to circulate around the internet that photos stolen from the actress Emma Watson would be posted online.

    Andres Stapff / Reuters

    Media outlets including the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the BBC connected the story to 4Chan hackers.

    As BuzzFeed News reported, the source for the rumours "seemed to be Twitter user @IgnacioGordo, who tweeted a link to a countdown site, emmayouarenext.com".

    lemouv.fr

    The site featured a countdown and a picture of Watson's face.

    The actress's representatives refused to comment, but doubt was immediately cast on the claims, as Watson had never been never on the original "master list" of celebrities rumoured to have been hacked.

    The website no longer shows the countdown; instead, it links to the home page of a viral marketing company called Rantic.

    The site and Rantic's Twitter account are calling for 4Chan to be shut down.

    This Reddit user had already concluded yesterday that Rantic was behind the stunt.

    foxweekly.com

    He posted his findings here. They're complex, but the short version is that three websites – foxweekly.com, rantic.com, and emmayouarenext.com – are "hosted on the same server or at least shared one server in common".

    Fox Weekly is ostensibly a news outlet, and has no connection to Fox News. It was one of the first sites to run a breaking news story on the EmmaYouAreNext site, according to Dazed Digital, which dug up a cached version here. Fox Weekly's story blamed 4Chan for the leak, but had no evidence to back up the claim.

    According to the Reddit user's thread, there was also a barrage of tweets from various fake Twitter accounts (all of which follow Rantic) that linked to EmmaYouAreNext.

    Rantic claims to have worked with a number of huge organisations, including NASA, Electronic Arts, and Rockstar. Earlier this year, it was linked to a website claiming that Grand Theft Auto V's PC release was to be cancelled. The news was reported on Fox Weekly and subsequently shown to be false.

    Dazed Digital and Mashable reported that Rantic has previously operated under other names such as Swenzy and SocialVevo, companies whose dubious activities have been covered in some detail by The Daily Dot.

    First, back in December last year, The Daily Dot reported on a very similar website to EmmaYouAreNext.

    En minutos, el anuncio especial de Brian Griffin de #FamilyGuy > http://t.co/cBe2rbaJaF //

    Martin Alejandro@martinalejandro

    En minutos, el anuncio especial de Brian Griffin de #FamilyGuy > http://t.co/cBe2rbaJaF //

    4:45 PM - 27 Nov 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

    In the wake of the death of the character of Brian in adult cartoon series Family Guy, a website called briansannouncement.com promised a "special announcement from Brian". The Daily Dot reported: "Brian's Announcement was an immediate hit, an unexpected lifeline that hit at just the right moment. It was reported on by Time, Gawker, CNN, and more. But there was no announcement. The site was an opportunistic hoax."

    The company behind it, SocialVevo, made money by "botting" (adding fake viewers) to YouTube videos to increase ad revenue. It was jumping on major news stories, building a buzz with websites that had countdowns, and then linking out to a video.

    The Daily Dot claimed that the man in this video was one of the company's founders.

    youtube.com

    The news site reported: "One of its founders, who goes by 'Jacob Povolotski' online, is a major player in the YouTube botting game. He first made a name for himself in 2012, when he drove 8 million fraudulent views to a self-produced rap video called 'Pickles'.

    "In the video, Povolotski – whose comedy rap name is 'Yasha Swag' – sports a mop top haircut and spits utter nonsense atop a headache-inducing beat."

    The Daily Dot said he could also be seen in this video, originally posted on YouTube.

    It was the reveal for a fake NASA announcement website, which once again had a countdown.

    However, The Daily Dot's attempts to track down his true identity drew a blank.

    The website wasn't even sure Jacob Povolotski was his real name, nor if any of the other SocialVevo employees to whom it was speaking were him.

    It reported: "Povolotski is still a phantom with a growing trail of breadcrumbs that lead nowhere. A SocialVevo-related email address pointed me to the site icanhazviews.com (which currently redirects to socialvevo.com). The site's whois record lists Povolotski's name and an address in Ballaghaderreen, Ireland. If the Google Maps image of that address is current, the building is actually a dairy depot."

    Then, in January this year, The Daily Dot reported that SocialVevo – now calling itself Swenzy – was trying to flood The Daily Dot's Twitter account with fake followers as a result of its investigation.

    BuzzFeed News has reached out to Rantic for further comment.

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