Chris Hansen is the latest victim of a Wikipedia hoax. The host of To Catch a Predator was falsely accused of being a child molester himself. Even as the story got legs, it did not take long for the false data to be debunked.
Chris Hansen of To Catch a Predator is Not a Child Molester
The latest victim of a Wikipedia hoax is Chris Hansen of the controversial reality TV show To Catch a Predator. On the program, the host exposes men who are seeking out youngsters well below the age of consent via the Internet for (you guessed it) sex. Hansen then sets up a videotaped sting operation during which he confronts the would-be pedophiles. As they leave the staged home, they are taken down by law enforcement.
Not surprisingly, when Hansen made headlines as being a child predator himself, there was a lot of Schadenfreude to go around. This sentiment ceased when the Post Chronicle revealed that Hansen was the victim of a Wikipedia hoax perpetrated by a webmaster intending to drive web traffic to his own site.
John Seigenthaler Killed Robert F. and John F. Kennedy (no, not really)
Perhaps the most famous victim of the Wikipedia hoax machine (thus far) is John Seigenthaler. The New York Times explains that, back in 2005, the famous journalist was surprised to learn that his Wikipedia entry tied him to the assassinations of both Robert F. and John F. Kennedy.
It came to light later on — as reported by USA Today — that the perpetrator was a delivery service manager who wanted to play a joke on a co-worker by posting on a supposed “‘gag’ encyclopedia.” Taking the high road, Seigenthaler cautioned that this kind of hoax could lead to “government regulation of the Internet.”
Sir Alan McIlwraith: “a hero that the UK and NATO can look to in times of trouble?”
Of course, not every Wikipedia hoax is perpetrated on an unwitting subject by a spoof artist. In some cases, it is the very subject of the Wikipedia entry who perpetrates the hoax. A case in point is a young call center worker who called himself Captain Sir Alan McIlwraith, KBE, DSO, MC.
The Daily Record reported that he claimed to be a decorated war hero whose false biographical bits got him to rub elbows with celebs. In his biographical section, the chap included the statement that he was “thought of as a hero that the UK and NATO can look to in times of trouble.” None of this was true.
Legacy of a Wikipedia Hoax
Due to the open nature of Wikipedia editing, factual statements that lack proper sourcing are suspect. Not surprisingly, it is exceedingly easy to set up and perpetrate a Wikipedia hoax. That said, the volunteers at the site are working hard to catch fraudsters before their entries can result in lasting damage.
Chris Hansen will likely not suffer any lasting consequences of his short-lived ill fame as an alleged child molester, just as John Seigenthaler never really figured into the list of possible Kennedy assassins. Instead, the odds are good that Hansen’s To Catch a Predator program will see resurgence in interest, which is actually a good thing.