In 2015, a site called Is It Halloween Or Not (IIHON) began making the rounds on social media. The link led to a simple site that displayed the word “NO” with a cartoon of a crying jack o’lantern 364 days out of the year. On Halloween, it would instead display a beaming, lit pumpkin with a “YES” legend. Innocuous enough, and it struck a chord with many folks for its brutish naivete and countercultural irony.

Soon, however, dark rumors began to swirl around the site. People reported that they had begun seeing disturbing advertisements online, advertisements that screenshotted as black and featured sudden noises and violent imagery. Others reported an uptick in identity theft, and accused IIHON of stealing and selling their personal data.

These rumors came to a head when the page’s author was uncovered through careful metadata archaeology. They were a data security expert, with past work for the NSA. And even though they insisted that the page was a fun project for a web development class during college, the rumor began that the site was being used as a front for secret government research and identity theft.

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