Pokémon Go is a phenomenon. Naturally, this means that the mobile game has inspired a parade of hoax stories, many of which seem to come from a single sketchy website, with connections to one of the more notorious faux news organizations on the Internet.
Cartel Press’ home page is covered in stories about Pokémon Go – some based on true events, others wholly made up. No, a teen didn’t kill his younger brother “because he thought he deleted his Pokémon.” No, Pokémon Go didn’t cause a major highway accident because some guy stopped in the middle of a highway “to catch Pikachu!” (at least, not yet). No, the Islamic State did not take responsibility for “Pokémon Go’s login problems; server issues.” Come on.
These stories are fake, but many of them aren’t outside the realm of the possible. A teen did find a dead body while playing Pokémon Go, and there are some much more credible reports of Pokémon Go-related injuries out there caused by the game, which was released in the United States less than a week ago. In Missouri, police have said that four people were targeting armed robbery victims in the St. Louis area using the augmented-reality app over the weekend.
Huzlers describes itself as “the most notorious fauxtire entertainment website in the world,” and it has perfected the art of the sensational but plausible fake story. Cartel Press is owned by Huzlers, which describes its content as “satire.” In a 2015 interview with Fusion, Huzlers’s founders claimed that they weren’t deliberately trying to trick people with their fake stories – although their business model appears to be based on getting people to share stories about major news events by hitting the sweet spot of sensational plausibility.
“Most of (the stories), we keep in mind that (they’re) so shocking, we’re going to be shocked ourselves if they believed it,” Huzlers founder Pablo Reyes told Fusion, “We don’t try to trick people intentionally – but if they get tricked, they get tricked.”
Although some of the fake Pokémon headlines on Cartel Press sound plausible, the articles themselves quickly give away their own fakery to anyone who actually reads them (which, we know, isn’t how sharing news articles on the Internet works anymore).
The story about that (fake) major highway accident caused by a guy who really wanted that Pikachu has all of the specifics of an urban legend. The story carries a dateline of “Massachusetts,” and its author cites “the officer Fredrick Jones” as a source. As Snopes notes, the photo illustrating the story comes from a Colorado accident in 2014.
The made-up distracted driver, however, does have one pretty great made-up quote:
“S--, if you wanna catch them all,” the fake 26-year-old Lamar Hickson never said, “you gotta risk it all so I put my car in park and started tossing these balls.”
Huzlers didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.