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The Internet has once again taught a harsh lesson about trust. The story of a man who deleted his entire business with a single line of code turned out to be nothing more than a viral marketing stunt.
The story of Marco Marsala, the owner of a small Web-hosting business, went viral on Friday. According to a post on the system and network administrator help forum SeverFault, Marsala had accidentally deleted his entire business—including all the information of his more than 1,500 customers—with just one piece of bad code.
As it turns out, the origin of the story was something far worse than any line of code: it was a marketing scheme meant to go viral.
Marsala revealed his story to be a hoax to Italian publication Repubblica. The ServerFault post was designed to garner attention with the intention of shifting the public’s focus to his true business, which outsources server management services.
He also said that he’s writing a book that chronicles horror stories like the one he wasted everyone’s time with. According to Marsala, the inspiration for his hoax is a true tale from someone he knows who actually did delete their whole business years ago.
In the version that appeared on ServerFault, which has since been deleted, Marsala claimed to use a command “rm -rf,” a fairly simple piece of code that deletes everything it is directed to eliminate. Marsala supposedly left the target for deletion undefined, so the code simply wiped out everything.
Users from ServerFault suggested that it would be next to impossible for him to retrieve his data. Most comments offered up some variation of “you’re totally screwed,” followed by a suggestion for a last-ditch effort.
The story appeared to have a happy ending at the time, as Marsala followed up his original post with a note proclaiming that all the data had been recovered.
Alas, the whole situation seems to end on a low note. Marsala’s story was fake, and now we all have to contemplate the fact that we’re oddly disappointed someone didn’t accidentally destroy their entire livelihood.
AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.