A PR firm has admitted to carrying out an online false flag against the 4chan forum in which it blamed the website for a threat to release naked pictures of actress Emma Watson as part of an appeal to President Barack Obama to censor the Internet.
Rantic Marketing, a public relations company that has worked with the likes of McDonalds and Rockstar Games, was outed as being behind a website called EmmaYouAreNext.com which threatened to release nude pictures of Watson in retaliation for her recent speech about feminism in front of the United Nations.
However, the website misrepresented itself as being the work of 4chan users, prompting a wave of articles in the media which blamed users of the forum for the threat leveled against the actress.
“The threat went viral in the few days since it emerged, receiving substantial media coverage, most of which seemed to wrongly blame 4Chan for the threat,” writes John McCarthy.
When it was revealed that EmmaYouAreNext.com was being hosted on the same server as Rantic.com and FoxWeekly.com, an outlet that blamed 4chan for the threat, the PR firm was forced to admit it was behind the stunt.
The website now forwards to Rantic.com, which features a letter addressed to President Barack Obama demanding that 4chan be shut down as a result of previous leaks of nude pictures of celebrities. “The internet NEEDS to be censored,” states the letter.
The company says it was “hired by celebrity publicists” to carry out the stunt. In one tweet which was later deleted, Rantic referred to 4chan as a “terrorist group.”
Despite Rantic’s call to shut down 4chan, the controversy has caused a huge backlash, with a plethora of users posting under the#ShutDownRantic hashtag.
— Izel (@i_z_e_l_s) September 24, 2014
— Dazia Pineda (@daz_angie) September 24, 2014
"the internet NEEDS to be censored" …wat!? #SHUTDOWNRANTIC
— Sie nannten ihn (@Linkfan7) September 24, 2014
Indeed, while Rantic has justified the stunt by claiming it is designed to draw attention to the noble cause of preventing the leak of private pictures, the company itself is taking most of the heat.
“So Rantic threatened to leak Emma Watson’s nudes in order to frame 4Chan in a coordinated effort to shut the website down and limit freedom on the internet, and you do this under the guise that you’re doing a good thing?” wrote Facebook user Steven Dixon.