Sign up to receive the Daily Dot’s Internet Insider newsletter for urgent news from the frontline of online.
Welcome to the Monday edition of Internet Insider, unspooling the threads of internet misinformation—one dumb conspiracy at a time…
ONE DUMB CONSPIRACY
Conspiracy theorists believe John McAfee is set to topple the Deep State from the beyond the grave
Conspiracy theorists are convinced that antivirus pioneer John McAfee, who officials say died by suicide in a Spanish prison late last month, is preparing to topple the Deep State from beyond the grave.
Prior to his death, which came shortly after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the U.S. on tax evasion charges, McAfee had garnered a significant following online thanks to his wild behavior and sensational remarks.
Although McAfee had cultivated an image as a freewheeling tech outlaw—due largely in part to his open drug use, anti-government tirades, and even murder allegations—the entrepreneur regularly made fictitious comments admittedly aimed at stirring up publicity.
Between the lie that he would eat his own penis if Bitcoin failed to reach $1 million and his lie about bypassing the iPhone’s encryption, McAfee on numerous occasions stated that he had no problem making false claims in order to, in his own words, “get a shitload of public attention.”
Yet in the wake of his death, previous outlandish remarks are now being cited by conspiracy theorists as proof that McAfee had laid an ingenious trap for the powers that be.
Specifically, McAfee repeatedly claimed to have a massive cache of government documents that would be released if he was ever arrested or ended up dead.
“I’ve collected files on corruption in governments. For the first time, I’m naming names and specifics,” McAfee wrote on Twitter in 2019. “I’ll begin with a corrupt CIA agent and two Bahamian officials. Coming today. If I’m arrested or disappear, 31+ terrabytes of incriminating data will be released to the press.”
McAfee again in January of 2020, just 9 months before he would be arrested in Spain, asserted that he had built a “dead man switch” that would automatically release the alleged documents if he was ever so much as touched by authorities.
“I do, absolutely, 1,000% have, not just a dead man switch, but a twice daily check in switch,” McAfee claimed. “If you think you are fast enough to grab me, torture me and get what you need before it activates, Think again.”
Only when the arrest finally came, McAfee’s alleged files were nowhere to be found. The elusive data cache also never came when McAfee passed away as previously promised.
The column continues below.
CHECK OUT THE LATEST FROM THE BAZAAR
Use Shopify to build your own online store
If the pandemic helped you discover that working at home is your jam, you’re not alone. The good news is that that’s a very viable thing, especially if you have an ecommerce business in mind. Building your own online store is easier than ever and Shopify can help you to get the job done.
Learn how to build and customize using Liquid, the site’s templating language, in just a few hours. Now you can watch the money roll in while you eat chips in your pajamas. Living the dream, right?
But even the specifics of the claim were over-the-top.
For reference, the Panama Papers—the 11.5 million files that detailed the offshore finance industry used by the ultra-wealthy—were 2.6 terabytes in size. This means that McAfee was claiming to have nearly 12 times more “incriminating data” than the biggest data leak in human history.
So why do conspiracy theorists remain convinced that these files will emerge? A fake website is partly to blame. Shortly after McAfee’s death, a website titled “CONTINGENCY PLAN ACTIVATED” appeared online.
The site featured a timer counting down from 28 days alongside the statement “something big is coming…”
“All the right people are scared,” another statement on the webpage read. “They should be.”
The site also linked to a cryptocurrency that McAfee founded, which, possibly to the applause of the site’s unknown creator, has now surged in value by more than 700%.
But the site disappeared just as quickly as it emerged, vanishing less than two days later.
Despite zero evidence linking the site to McAfee, which was built after he passed away, conspiracy theorists believe the files will finally see the light of day on July 23.
Don’t hold your breath.
—By Mikael Thalen, staff writer