The threat to release nude photos of the actress Emma Watson was a hoax designed to bring down 4chan.
The threat was issued following Watson's speech on rights for women at the UN, and did indeed originate on the anarchic message board 4chan, as originally reported.
"She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online," said the messages.
A website sprang up moments later featuring a countdown clock, and threatening to release the pictures in five days.
The threat was linked by every major media organisation which reported it - including Huffington Post - to a wider leak of celebrity nude photos earlier this month, in which photos of actresses including Jennifer Lawrence were published across the internet.
But now it has emerged that a viral marketing company was behind the website - and possibly the messages too.
For not only was the threat a hoax, it also appears to have been part of a plot to bring down… 4chan.
Rantic Marketing has claimed responsibility for the threat, redirected Emmayouarenext.com to its website, and posted a confession, a crossed-out version of the 4chan logo and the message "#shutdown4chan".
Rantic said that the aim was to draw attention to the illegal sharing of pictures by 4chan users. The company has been linked to other 'viral' projects, including the release of rumours about a major NASA announcement in 2013, which turned out to be a music video.
Rantic said the site received 48 million visitors and 7 million Facebook shares. They also claim that they were hired "by celebrity publicists to bring this disgusting issue to attention".
The website includes an apparently crudely worded letter to President Obama, again calling for 4chan to be shut down.
"None of these women deserve this," the page says. "Join us as we shutdown 4chan and prevent more pictures from being leaked."
Here are some of the company's tweets in the wake of the 'reveal'.
4chan is messing with the wrong one, ladies have been suffering, Kids are being exposed to the utterly disturbing content, 4chan IS KILL.
Shut down 4chan prevent suicides and violence towards women, Support the cause,End the problem!
Dear humans, In the digital age we have a new kind of terror going on and it is called 4chan,Help us take down the terrorist group 4chan.
Unfortunately for Rantic, if it was expecting the reveal to be met with a chuckle and a handshake, it hasn't gone that way. Instead the reaction has been a mix of justifiable ethical debate and outright threats from 4chan users:
@RanticMarketing Trying to frame 4chan? Really? Ever heard of ethics? No better than the hackers that leaked initially imo.
— T.J. Foltz (@TJFoltz) September 24, 2014
— Aderphos (@Aderphos) September 24, 2014
@RanticMarketing This is pretty sad. This will end your company...or at least run its rep into the ground so far it'll never recover...GG
— Seosamh O'Mainnin (@SeosamhOMainnin) September 24, 2014
Enjoying the backlash @RanticMarketing is getting, go back to the sandbox until you're big enough to join the adults.
— ~SweetDreams~ (@SwtLlDrms) September 24, 2014
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