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Emma Watson: nude photo leak revealed to be hoax

Emma Watson nude photo leak outed as viral marketing hoax

Turns out a ‘social media marketing enterprise’ called Rantic really has it in for 4chan

The internet exploded in outrage yesterday at the news that a 4chan user was planning to leak nude images of Emma Watson as revenge for her UN speech about feminism and women's rights. The imageboard site cried set-up. Vowing revenge, the users blamed 4chan-hating "feminazis" for creating EmmaYouAreNext, the site that was purportedly meant to release the images. Now it looks like 4chan may have been right – just not about the feminazis. Let's just say a viral marketing company called Rantic should be very, very afraid.

As of Wednesday midnight, EmmaYouAreNext no longer displayed the countdown to the scheduled leak. Instead, it redirected users to the homepage for Rantic, which describes itself as a "social media marketing enterprise that has participated in some of the most viral campaigns and music videos". 

The Rantic site also hosts an open letter to Barack Obama, which calls for 4chan to be shut down. The statement reads: "We have been hired by celebrity publicists to bring this disgusting issue to attention. The recent 4chan celebrity nude leaks in the past two months have been an invasion of privacy and is also clear indication that the internet NEEDS to be censored." 

Rantic's Twitter account has also been going HAM on the whole "shut 4chan down" campaign – although for a professional marketing agency, they might want to hire a proofreader and think a little bit harder about calling 4chan a "terrorist group": 

So just what is Rantic? Mashable dug up an early version of its site which claims that it's worked with McDonalds and Rockstar Games. It also discovered a Reddit thread that links Rantic to a site called FoxWeekly, which generously describes itself as an "online magazine". In fact, FoxWeekly been accused of plagiarising articles from the BBC, Fox News, the New York Times, CNN and many other news outlets.

pastebin document posted on Reddit claims that, EmmaYouAreNext and FoxWeekly are all "hosted on the same server or share at least one server in common". FoxWeekly was also one of first websites to run a story on EmmaYouAreNext. (You can see a cached version of the original article here.)

But Rantic seems to have wised up and are now trying to cover their tracks, with the author of the pastebin writing: "The /server-status resource was removed from the server about the same time a series of cryptic tweets were made on the @RanticMarketing Twitter account. Seems like they might suspect something is up."

This isn't the first stunt Rantic has engineered. According to the Daily Dot, the so-called "social media marketing enterprise" was previously known as Swenzy and SocialVEVO. Last year, it pulled off several high-profile marketing pranks, including a Family Guy hoax website that featured a similar countdown feature to Emma You Are Next.

As you probably figured out, Rantic's ultimate goal isn't to get 4chan shut down. It is currently unclear whether Rantic is a real company or, as Business Insider describes it, a front for an "internet hoax squad" specialising in pageview-chasing PR stunts. Emails to Rantic have been returned with an error message.

For the record, I sincerely doubt that any celebrity has actually hired Rantic to "take down the terrorist group 4chan". Or that Rantic is a legitimate marketing agency – at least in any conventional sense of the term. In its earlier incarnation as Swenzy, Rantic used hoaxes like the Family Guy stunt to drive traffic to its own site, which sold social media followers and likes on Instagram and Facebook. As one Reddit user puts it: "They troll people. Make it popular. Collect ad money. They're trolls with huge bags of money."  

Whatever Rantic is, they've also completely derailed Emma Watson's message, which was meant to promote the HeForShe United Nations campaign for gender equality:

Remember when people thought the internet was a beautiful place where people all over the world could come together in the spirit of charity and togetherness? Yeah, well.