We have all been told a thousand times, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” The internet is a revolutionary way to share information, but it is prudent to be careful of what we accept as truth when surfing or scrolling.
A website called Clone Zone has been active for just under a year now. It is an easy-to-use website that produces clones of virtually any website on the internet. A user copies a URL into the software; Clone Zone produces a fully editable version of the webpage and hosts its publication for sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
Clone Zone was created by Analisa Teachworth and Slava Balasanov, two artists who run the New York based studio 4Real. The artists consider Clone Zone to be a work of art but the practical implication of the website goes beyond an art project. Clone Zone allows anyone to publish information under the masthead of news organizations that are widely trusted, such as CNN or the New York Times.
Balasanov told Claire L. Evans in an interview with Motherboard:
“an ideal use case scenario would be a clone with an impact on the real world, a wildly-circulated clone believed by everyone.”
The artist goes on to say that, in the realm of the internet where everything is virtual, reputable web-sources are all relative and are assigned trustworthiness by the individual.
The artists designed Clone Zone for clones of websites to be shared on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. It is in that sphere where the effects of clones have the most potency. It is fairly easy for an astute reader to assess the trustworthiness of a website based on its URL, but Twitter and Facebook are showing users increasingly less of a shared page’s address. Clone Zone then becomes a project in how willing people are to believe something on the internet that might otherwise seem like false information, and the diligence of readers to search for what is trustworthy when presented with conflicting versions of a story.
In a relevant example, a clone was posted Monday, the day before SuperTuesday primary voting, that looked like an article from the New York Times. The article stated that Senator Elizabeth Warren had endorsed the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The New York Times quickly had the clone removed. The New York Times released their own article refuting the clone, but not before it had received a potentially influential number of views and shares on Facebook.
In short, be careful of what you accept as truth when reading news online. Take a quick scan of the URL of the webpage that you are reading and make an informed decision to discern what is trustworthy and what might be a clone.