A terrifying and totally fake story about a rapist clown has been freaking people out on the internet for more than six months. It's all thanks to this hoax, published in early December:
It also spawned a wave of copycat stories, at least one of which went even more viral, with over 72,000 Facebook interactions.
The story got a big boost on Twitter when the @SexualGifs account, which has over 1.5 million followers, tweeted a screencap of one version, generating over 8,000 retweets.
The hoax keeps spreading, leaving completely freaked-out people in its wake.
A common reaction from people who share the story is to say they're done with clowns.
Even after being told it's a hoax, she still swore off clowns forever.
Other people talk about all the ways they'd like to see the (fake!) rapist punished.
One reason this hoax is effective is that it "mirrors an urban legend about serial killers disguising themselves as various inanimate objects," according to Snopes. This same concept was used in the horror film Amusement, which featured an attacker disguised as a clown doll.
It's so effective that even people who check if the story is real will suffer consequences.
Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.
Contact Craig Silverman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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