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Online pranksters target Shell’s drilling plans

Greenpeace’s latest attack on the company’s Arctic drilling is a little too effective.

By Kim Peterson 19 July 2012
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A +0.40%) has a problem on its hands: a little website that looks authentic and for weeks has called attention to the company’s Arctic oil exploration plan.The website, at, was expertly crafted to look like a Shell company site. But it doesn’t take much investigating to realize there are hijinks afoot. The picture of a polar bear carrying the bloody head of a baby polar bear in its mouth might give a clue.The site is an elaborate setup by Greenpeace, which has clearly learned that online protests can make more of an impact than some of its other methods. The site is funny, viral, and so effective that it keeps coming back to haunt Shell weeks after it was exposed as a Greenpeace stunt.

The centerpiece of the site is a fake ad generator that lets people add their own captions to photos of the Arctic (the ad generator appears to be down now). You can see the gallery here. The captions that people have added are harsh, and sometimes hilarious. Here are some examples:

  • Birds are like sponges… for oil!
  • We’d drill a crippled orphan’s spine if there was some oil in it.
  • Because you can’t afford to visit pristine wilderness anyway.
  • End polar bear attacks in our lifetime.
  • This fox will murder you unless we kill it first.
  • Because your gas should come from someplace beautiful.

Shell clearly wants all of this to go away — so much so that it said it won’t take legal action against Greenpeace. The company is looking to launch its first offshore Arctic drilling in two decades, and continues to be hammered by environmental groups as a result

Greenpeace also used Twitter to help its site go viral, creating a fake Shell account that pretended to be panicking as user ads were created. “Our team is working overtime to remove inappropriate ads,” tweeted the @ShellisPrepared account. “Please stop sharing them.”

That only got more attention as people fell for the joke.

Are we seeing a new era in corporate protests? The Occupy Wall Street movement effectively used social media and the Internet to spread its message, and Greenpeace has taken the idea a step further with its elaborate viral joke.

Who’s next?


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