Mysterious October Surprise website a hoax?
A mysterious website, Octsurprise.com, which touts a secret document that the site warns would hurt one of the candidate's chance of winning the presidential election, is likely a prank.
Update: Octsurprise.com is now openly a "Rick Roll'd" page. The site now reads "Sorry folks. Did NOT expect this level of interest. Apologies! Jokes! Vote! Sorry for the most predictable rick roll ever."
"One of your presidential candidates isn't being honest with you," it reads, accompanied by a clock counting down the minutes. "Stay tuned to find out which one it is."
Speculation about the site has spread throughout Twitter via its handle @Octsurprise and the hashtag #OctSuprise. The page then appeared in a community post on Buzzfeed early on Thursday and was taken down later in the day by editor-in-chief Ben Smith, after he was contacted by Yahoo News.
Similar posts appeared on Daily Kos and WhatIsOccupyWallStreetAbout.com before the user accounts were deactivated.
Octsurprise.com promises to blow up the presidential race on Oct. 22 at 5:30 p.m. But observers are already skeptical about the blurry, scanned documents, and some investigating by Politicker point to a viral marketing campaign connected to Animal Planet's upcoming, and satirical, pet elections.
Taking a lead from users at the tech forum Fark.com—who traced the IP addresses of the accounts promoting the page—Politicker tracked down two Web developers who are likely behind the October Surprise site, Jeff Hopwood and Anthony Maro.
The pair have a history of large-scale Internet hoaxes: Their names are connected to a huge prank, for instance, from 2007, when a site promised to release advanced copies of Radiohead's "In Rainbows," instead unleashing on 20,000 subscribers one of the oldest and most infuriating Internet memes: the RickRoll.
As the Fark.com users followed the breadcrumbs that might lead to October Surprise, pages connecting Hopwood and Maro to the 2007 incident disappeared from the Internet. But before long, their LinkedIn accounts were under scrutiny by Politicker, which found that the duo are working as developers at Discovery Communications, the distributor of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
Hopwood and Maro claim they have no idea who's behind the site and that they're only developers. They do claim to know the number of page visits, however, bragging to Politicker that it reached 100,000 in only a few days.
At the same time, the Twitter account of @OctSuprise retweets users who express interest or disdain in the candidates—but has ignored and blocked skeptics and those presenting the links between the site and Hopwood and Maro's past prank.
If the site remains up, only time will tell if it is a hoax or a genuine leak. Come Oct. 22, screens around the country will either fill up with scandalizing documents concerning one of the candidates, an Animal Planet promo or—most upsetting—the sights and sounds of Rick Astley.