Christmas Lights, Hoaxes, and Google Ads

For your, “it’s always something” and your “it’s easy to create a hoax” on the Internet file…

According to an AP article: Designer: Christmas Lights on Web a Hoax, Google is looking into a site that turned out to be a hoax. Why Google? The web site contained Google ads and at least one advertiser is unhappy.

It turns out that the web site, which was supposed to allow web visitors to control the Christmas lights in front of Alek Komarnitsky’s Colorado home, was a scam. The story was picked up by the AP, linked from the Slashdot site and, and by many other news outlets. In fact, several Colorado TV stations sent helicopters to fly over the home.

The AP picked up the story from a local newspaper and checked out the Web site but never visited the house. Oops.

Yesterday, after the site received more than four million visitors during December, Mr. Komarnitsky confessed to the Wall Street Journal that it was all a hoax.

Komarnitsky said he only made “pennies” from the Google ads but was unable to say precisely how much he earned due to an NDA with Google.

Paul McLellan, general manager of Minneapolis-based, which had an ad on the site, said Komarnitsky’s actions were unethical.

A spokesman for Google declined comment until officials could look into the matter further.

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