People will like and share anything on social media, provided the content disseminated rocks the boats, raises eyebrows or provokes an involuntary chuckle. In order to illustrate the gullibility of the World Wide Web, a man who claimed that Facebook discriminated against him because of his name, Phuc Dat Bich, has announced it was a hoax.
In January, a man posted a Facebook screenshot of an Australian name in order to prove his name was Phuc Dat Bich, pronounced Phoo Da Bic. The Australian of Vietnamese descent claimed his account had been shut down multiple times by Facebook officials.
“I find it highly irritating the fact that nobody seems to believe me when I say that my full legal name is how you see it,” wrote Phuc Dat Bich.
“I’ve been accused of using a false and misleading name of which I find very offensive. Is it because I’m Asian? Is it?”
“Having my fb shut down multiple times and forced to change my name to my ‘real’ name, so just to put it out there. My name. Yours sincerely, Phuc Dat Bich.”
The post was resuscitated after it went viral in mid-November. His status has been shared more than 70,000 times and liked over 130,000 times by Facebook users. Phuc Dat Bich became a trending topic on Twitter, as well.
The joker comes clean
Media outlets such as the Sydney Morning Herald, SBS, BBC and the Herald Sun reported on the story, even though Phuc Dat Bich did not give any interviews. On Wednesday afternoon, the 23-year-old Melbourne man came clean. He admitted the name change and doctored photo was a hoax intended to reflect the shortcomings of Facebook’s real name policy.
Facebook has a real name policy, which holds users accountable for whatever information they spread on the web. Facebook authorities did not believe Phuc Dat Bich was the man’s real name, which prompted him to post a fake passport online.
In a post signed under the name Joe Carr for “joker,” he expressed the absurdity of Facebook officials trying to regulate a platform where social media pranks run amok.
“Facebook needs to understand that it is utterly impossible to legitimise a place where there will always be pranksters and tricksters,” he wrote.
“What started as a joke between friends, became a prank that made a fool out of the media and brought out the best in the people who reached out to me. It didn’t bring out the anger and darkness that we often see on the internet, but it brought a levity and humanity in a time we need it most.”
“Out of this ordeal I’ve concluded not to trust the credibility of the media, it’s twisted by the hungry journalists who mask the truth … It goes to show that an average joe like myself can con the biggest news sources with ease.”
Apparently, the joker’s real name is Tin Le. He is 23 and lives in Melbourne. When The Guardian requested Tin Le provide verification, he responded: “Well, you’ll just have to have faith and run with what you have. I’m too tired with it all. Call me Mr T.”
Mainstream media fails to fact check story
Tin claims he “wanted to make a point, to make people happy” with the incident. He was uncertain whether he would change the name of the Facebook profile. The profile page has since been deleted.
Although the story spread like wildfire through various news outlets, not a single reporter actually confirmed “Phuc Dat Bich” was his real name. Nevertheless, skepticism was not mute. Journalist Trevor Long, for instance, expressed doubt about the name prior to Tin’s admission that it was fake.
“What is the evidence?” he wrote. “His passport. Not that a journalist from any of the above organisation have sighted his passport – that he posted a photo of his passport on Facebook.”
Though humorous, the incident illustrates how easy it is to dupe the mainstream media and in turn, how easy it is for the mainstream media to dupe us.