A headline in a recent edition of Kyoko Shimbun reads, "Relay runner tosses Olympic torch into Thames."
"Twitter to be limited to 17 letters starting next month," reads another.
And then there was: "Government to send 200 religious healers to Oi nuclear plant."
Just what's going on here?
Reporting the news through sarcasm and satire since 2004, Kyoko Shimbun is Japanese parody website that uses humor and fictional stories to attract readers, much like The Onion in the United States.
And like The Onion, Kyoko Shimbun has had its share of people who are fooled by its reportage of nonexistent happenings, thinking they are actually true.
"Kyoko," which literally means "false" in Japanese, should be a dead giveaway, but many readers have mistakenly taken some of the Kyoko Shimbun's parodies at face value.
One such story ran under the headline, "Osaka mayor demands students use Twitter."
The story said Mayor Toru Hashimoto was proposing an ordinance that would require all elementary pupils and junior high school students in the city to send at least one tweet a day.
The news went viral and spread rapidly--fittingly enough--through Twitter and other social networking sites. And the number of hits on the Kyoko Shimbun site jumped from 15,000 a day to 100,000, causing the site to become inaccessible.
Readers' comments poured in: "It's just a Hashimoto publicity stunt." "Don't spread false information." "When it's a lie, say so."
More astute readers defended Kyoko Shimbun: "Many people do not understand a joke." "It's the fault of those who were deceived for being fooled."
Three days later, Kyoko Shimbun posted a statement saying that it will continue to report its "fake news."
Eventually, the controversy faded away, but not before causing stress and anxiety to the man who runs the Kyoko Shimbun website.
"All I could do was watch tweet messages flowing in like torrents of water," he said.
Known simply as "UK," the Kyoko Shimbun editor is a thirtysomething cram school teacher from Shiga Prefecture.
"I formed the site because I wanted readers to get in on the joke," UK said, adding that the advent of Twitter has caused many to misunderstand the satire and light-hearted approach of Kyoko Shimbun. Still, he remains undeterred.
"We will continue to write what we want to in order not to intimidate free speech on the Internet," UK said.
Toshiki Takase, a teacher at Sapporo Asahigaoka Senior High School, said Kyoko Shimbun is useful in helping evaluate information on the Internet. He said some of his students believed the articles to be true until Takase told them they were false.
"They can learn the importance of confirming the source of the message before believing every word of it," he said. "Kyoko Shimbun is ideal material to learn media literacy."
Check it out at (kyoko-np.net), and remember, it's all in good fun.
- « Prev
- Next »