In an April Fools Day prank, futurism.com published an article stating that Pluto had been officially reinstated as a planet. The article has since been edited to tell readers that the information is false, but at the time, many people believed the article and began re-debating the Pluto controversy on the internet.
The article uses intertextuality, pretending to reference the International Astronomical Union (IAU), using them as a supposed authoritative source. This earned the trust and suspicions of many readers. The article author also intertextually quotes supposed Dr. Amy Joggy, expanding upon her title, “professor at the Institute of Planetary Studies and head of the IAU’s Planetary Classification and Experimental Nomenclature Task Force”. This technique is used to establish source credibility and is also seen in Heffernan’s article on the internet’s capability for harm. (For instance, Heffernan elaborates on Geoffrey Berman’s title, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.) The loaded diction, from “infamous vote” to the public “explode[ing] with outrage” is also reminiscent of a real news article, designed to capture reader attention. The article also requires that the reader have some knowledge of Pluto’s history as a planet and a beloved Disney character, drawing intertextual references to both.
Though the rise of sensationalism and click-bait within the internet makes it easier to pass false news as fact, by being a close reader, questioning sources, and doing additional investigation, readers can gain the capability to discern fact from fiction.