A Twitter hashtag intended to raise awareness surrounding the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and to crowdsource information about the perpetrators has been hijacked by a group of Internet marketers.
Using a small army of fake Twitter accounts, Rantic Marketing has used the hashtag #OpCharlieHebdo to drum up business for itself. Rantic Marketing is just the latest moniker used by a group of social-media manipulators best known as SocialVevo.
The hashtag was originally used by the hacktivist group Anonymous, specifically by the account @OpCharlieHebdo, to help find the men who killed 12 people at the French satirical magazine on Jan. 7. (Police killed two men they believed perpetrated the attack on Hebdo on Jan. 9.)
About three days after the attack, Rantic launched the website opcharliehebdo.com featuring a countdown clock, which has become a signature of the marketers, and an Islamic star and crescent moon. The countdown was expected to end Sunday.
Today the site now redirects to a Rantic subdomain encouraging people to support Charlie Hebdo and watch a video called #iamhuman. The video features a man talking into the camera about the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
The story of Rantic begins more than two years ago. By using names like Rantic, SocialVevo, and Swenzy, the group has duped the media into reporting on its hoaxes as fact.
Rantic’s pranks sprout up following news events. The group has taken advantage of brands and organizations like NASA, Family Guy, and Rockstar. The unofficial objective of all these pranks was ostensibly to drum up news and social media publicity for the group, which it does with official-looking prank websites and those aforementioned countdown clocks.
In September, Rantic made headlines with a website counting down to the release of nude photographs of actress Emma Watson. The bogus website was launched in the aftermath of so-called Celebgate (a.k.a. The Fappening), a massive dump of nude celebrity photographs. The Rantic website accused 4chan, the searchable Internet’s oldest and most controversial corners, of harboring the Watson photos.
4chan users retaliated against Rantic by defacing its website and allegedly obtaining access to FoxWeekly, another one of its prank sites that masquerades as a news organization.
Rantic claims to be social media engineers who can help boost your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram account. In the past the group has artificially inflated a YouTube video of mine to more than 500,000 views and flooded the Daily Dot’s official Twitter account with more than 75,000 unwanted followers.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Rantic for a comment regarding #OpCharlieHebdo. We will update with any response we receive.