YouTubers’ fake celebrity interview prank highlights how easily anyone can fall for online impersonators

Pieter's partner Manners (top left) conducting a Zoom video call session with Holly H in the prank video, who was under the impression that she was doing an interview with Corden (right). — Screengrab from YouTube

Zoom video calls, some email exchanges and pre-recorded sound bites were all it took for a pair of YouTubers to fool celebrities into thinking they were doing interviews with popular talk shows hosts James Corden and Jimmy Fallon.

UK-based YouTubers Josh Pieters and Archie Manners posted a series of videos this week to show viewers how they pranked celebrities like singer Craig David and reality television personality Carole Baskin into believing that they were talking to popular talk show hosts through Zoom.

In his introduction, Pieters explained that he was inspired by how everyone "from politicians to princesses are using Zoom", particularly talk show hosts who are using the application to interview celebrity guests remotely. He also wondered if the celebrity guests can always see who is on the other side of the video call talking to them.

"Would it be possible to trick celebrities into thinking James Corden was interviewing them by just playing them old recordings of the James Corden TV show," Pieters said in the video.

He explained how he sent emails to the celebrities claiming that his company is producing Corden’s The Late Late Show and asked them to join him for interviews. Pieters later showed how he searched videos of Corden’s previous interviews clips on YouTube and recorded Corden’s voice when he’s asking questions into a sound bite application.

Some lines he recorded include Corden’s laugh and asking the question "How are you, how are you holding up?". Pieters described the voice recordings as "computerised James Corden".

During the Zoom interview sessions, Pieters had his partner Manners pretend to be Corden's producer. He was doing actions like countdowns and asking the celebrities to repeat their answers to make it seem like the interviews were being recorded for Corden's show. Throughout the entire fake interview session, the celebrities never saw Corden's face in the video but rather a black screen with the text "CBS 1212" and Corden's pre-recorded voice.

But it was enough to convince the celebrities to show off a dance routine, a magic trick and in David's case, perform one of his hit songs. For Baskin, she revealed that it was her first public interview since she became a household name through the reality show Tiger King. Pieters told Baskin that she was allowed to promote a campaign in an interview with Fallon or rather 'computerised Fallon'.

Baskin has responded to the prank in a statement to CNN.

"I was suspicious as we were doing it because the questions appeared taped. But had no idea it would turn out to be such a fun prank. It gave us a very welcome good laugh. I appreciate their cleverness and that they created their video in a way that I don't feel was in any way mean-spirited," she said.

The other celebrities have, so far, not responded to the prank.

Though Pieters and Manners perhaps never intended to maliciously harm anyone through the fake celebrity interview prank, it showed just how easily anyone can be duped into giving out details about their private life or perform for a stranger on the Internet, especially when they were under the impression that someone on the other side is famous.

More diligence is needed from users to avoid being duped by online impersonators, such as checking the background or veracity of any contact and asking for concrete proof of identity (in this case, a face-to-face recording) before agreeing to any forms of communication.

Pieters and Manners have over four million subscribers on YouTube. Previously, they convinced columnist Katie Hopkins into flying to Prague in the Czech Republic to accept a fake award.

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