Japan Ends Whale Hunt and Other Hoaxes

April 20, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Japanese Fishermen hose down a 9.95m Baird's Beaked whale at Wada Port on June 21, 2007 in Chiba, Japan.  (Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
Japanese Fishermen hose down a 9.95m Baird's Beaked whale at Wada Port on June 21, 2007 in Chiba, Japan. (Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
The Japanese government announced it will no longer permit hunting or killing of whales for research—or did it?

"Effective immediately, Japan will no longer conduct scientific research on whale populations, which require capture and dissection," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Makoto Inoue, reported CBS Breaking News website .

Except Makoto Inoue is not Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano is.

But that is because “CBS Breaking News” is not a news site. It’s a hoax site run by Nick Oba, who calls it a “viral verisimilitude project.”

Oba writes on the site’s “about” page that he wanted to put a spotlight on sensationalism in the media, “especially the bizarre spectacle of morbid journalism the media and media consumers feast on when major disasters such as earthquakes occur.”

He claims he developed a sophisticated algorithm that produces “authentic-looking disaster stories instantly.” He says each of his disaster stories is unique and read like real wire news stories. Oba’s works for Locust Swarm, a custom Web applications company that crafts sites specifically designed to go viral.

Conceived in 1998, the “CBS Breaking News” site didn’t go live until 2010. It got attention (and in trouble) for publishing a piece titled “Marshall Islands Legalize Cocaine.”

The government of the Marshall Islands didn’t appreciate the hoax. In a press release dated March 24, the government says it intends to find the publishers of this article and “compel [them], through the judicial process, to account for their libelous acts and yellow journalism.”

Oba’s site carries three kinds of untruths: unreal disaster stories, “Why not” stories, and pseudo news stories.

Japan calling an end to whaling is an example of a “why not” story. He says these are stories people immediately recognize as false, but they speak to a “senseless status quo” that Oba thinks one single person in a position of power could change.

Two other “why not” stories he posted are “United States to Destroy All Nuclear Warheads,” and “Israel to Dismantle Settlements, Recognize Palestinian State.”

Pseudo news stories are those that are bizarre but seem to have a sort of truthiness to them. Oba says that today insane news abounds on YouTube and other sites, which makes these bizarre stories also seem to carry a certain believability, but they are not true.

Some on his site that fall in this category are “Chinese City Uses Human Pedal Power to Go Green” and “Google Moving to India?”