Oh Grow Up: Inside The 4chan Hashtag Hoax #cutforbieber

Kids will be kids, it seems. And these days, that apparently means perpetuating hoaxes on Twitter and joking about cutting themselves on social media. The hashtag #cutforbieber that trended globally on Monday is just one more sign of boredom and ennui in the digital age.

First things first: No teen girl has actually cut themselves in an attempt to get Justin Bieber to stop smoking marijuana after photographs of him smoking a joint at a party were heavily circulated over the weekend. It was all a big, fat hoax - except for the part about Bieber getting high.

Anatomy Of A Prank

The hashtag, created by Internet pranksters, was concocted on early Monday morning on 4chan’s /b/, a forum whose users are typically characterized as male teens.

“Tweet a bunch of pics of people cutting themselves and claim we did it because bieber was smoking weed” wrote the Anonymous user (link NSFW) who started the hoax. "See if we can get some little girls to cut themselves."

Members of the forum then discussed ways to make their newly created Twitter accounts appear authentic, which included suggestions to follow each other and Justin Bieber, how to write like a teenage girl, as well as what photos to use: Don’t use old photos that "are clearly recycled... use something you have saved off here... and goog[le] reverse search it to make sure."

The stage was set, and the Twitter-o-sphere, full of actual female Bieber fans that regularly trend Justin Bieber-related hashtags, ate it up. The hashtag #cutforbeiber began trending globally around 3pm Eastern Time, reports the Daily Dot, and was still trending by early morning Tuesday. By early Monday evening, the notorious trolling group GNAA had claimed responsibility for the prank, but that didn’t stop the hashtag from spreading to Tumblr.

By 2am, #cutforbieber had been mentioned more than 350,000 times, according to Twitter analytics site Topsy (below), and various YouTube celebrities had vlogged about the trend.

The three most popular photos of young women’s arms cut by razors or knives (link NSFW) currently circulating are in fact fake, initially spread from the Twitter accounts belonging to Internet pranksters. All other photos circulating either originated in the 4chan thread listed above, associated with Twitter accounts listed in the 4chan thread or are from known Twitter pranksters. (The forum users appear to like the name "Amanda," possibly a twisted reference to Amanda Todd, the British Columbia teen who committed suicide in October 2012) Another giveaway the Twitter accounts are fake - besides obvious signs like being recently created and using pictures and following users listed in the 4chan thread - some of the fake accounts also follow the content aggregator site 9GAG, the archnemesis of 4chan (and Reddit).

As for the global reach of the trend, a majority of young people not associated with 4chan used the hashtag to remark on how confused or concerned they were or how stupid they found the hashtag, believing their young peers were actually cutting themselves. Others filled the hashtag with photos of themselves mocking the trend by either threatening to cut their hair or their pets, cutting paper, smearing ketchup on their arms or cutting marijuana plants. All the teens and young 20-somethings mocking the trend then stirred Twitter outrage among concerned users who then furthered the longevity of the hashtag well into the night.

The End Results

The young trolls set out make fools out of "Beliebers" by getting a teen girl to actually cut herself, but said teen girl never materialized. Thankfully, no one was that stupid, though this isn't the first time the group has attempted to bait Bieber fans. 4chan’s /b/ recently tried to get Beliebers to shave their heads with a Bieber cancer hoax, but no teen girl believed that hoax, either. It seems teen girls are not as gullible as 4chan believes.

Both 4chan’s /b/ and Beliebers have been called the scum of the Internet, with both communities stereotyped as composed primarily of minors - 4chan being predominantly male, Beliebers female. The days of teasing or pulling the hair of the girl you like have transformed into today's digital shenanigans.

No doubt one day members of both groups will grow up and find each other through online dating sites like OK Cupid. Until then, it looks like the rest of the Internet will have to put up with their underaged idiocy, be it in the form of pranks, worldwide trending hashtags about Bieber, or in this case, the unpleasant combination of both. 


Image courtesy of Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.