Mistakes were made: Hilarious internet mess-ups from the 2010s

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Alain Benainous / Contributor / Getty Images

Internet mistakes can take on lives of their own, finding their way across oceans and living on forever in memes and GIFs. Sometimes these mishaps spotlight the darkness that comes with being online, but there are more whimsical moments as well. Here are some of the most hilarious internet mishaps from the past decade that hopefully didn’t get anyone fired.

The span of time between 2010 to 2020 brought some of the most amazing technological advances the world has ever seen, so in the spirit of reflection, we’ve compiled a series of stories that take a look back at the previous decade through a variety of different lenses. Explore more of our Ten Years of Tech series.
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The sad, sinister truth behind the mysterious Snake People

The 2010s were the decade when Millennials were accused of destroying everything from napkins to cereal to golf (and that was just in 2016). It’s no wonder Eric Bailey created a browser extension that automatically changed the word “Millennials” to “Snake People.” They’re evil, I tells ya.

But the browser extension also swapped out other words, leading to an iconic New York Times correction. In a 2018 story, “President Trump’s Exaggerated and Misleading Claims on Trade,” the Times included the following quote: “America’s trade deficit narrowed dramatically during the Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks.” The shedding and cold rocks part is Snake People-speak for the Great Recession. Senior Editor Justin Bank wrote about his use of the Snake People extension, saying that while it was embarrassing, he still condoned the use of these “goofy diversions.” As for Bailey, who created it, he told Gizmodo, “Computers were a mistake.”

Fox has all the stuff-related news

“Lorem ipsum” is fake Latin text professionals use as a placeholder when laying out webpages, brochures, and the like. TK is also used to mean “to come,” as in, these words aren’t ready yet, so don’t hit “publish” yet.

Someone at Fox News used neither and instead inserted the much more interesting “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” “STUFF YO,” and “HERE IS SOME STUFF FO YO,” into headlines and paragraphs on a webpage prototype. Somehow all that gibberish briefly made it onto Fox News’ main page during routine site maintenance. The mistake was quickly fixed, but for a short time, the homepage had revived a story about World Zombie Day.

So Tay-ngry 

Who goes Nazi? Apparently artificial intelligence does when the “garbage in, garbage out” model is allowed to take hold. Microsoft released a chatbot named Tay on Twitter in 2016, and trolls inundated it with racist, anti-Semitic, sexist slurs.

Tay parroted the tormentors, and Microsoft took the bot offline after less than a day. “We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, nor how we designed Tay,” Peter Lee, Microsoft Research’s corporate vice president, wrote in an official response. Having learned its lesson, Microsoft then released Zo, a tamer chatbot that doesn’t do politics.

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Just this year, we learned that Taylor Swift tried to sue the company because of the original chatbot, its name being too close for comfort to the singer’s — and that was even before Tay started to say things that were not OK.

No way, EA

In 2017, Electronic Arts released Star Wars Battlefront II. Fans were dismayed with the game’s long grind times and use of paid loot boxes. They were complaining on Reddit, and an EA account responded, “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes,” and that the company appreciated “the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth.” That passion was on full display when the comment received over 683,000 downvotes. It now has the dubious distinction of a Guinness World Record for most downvoted Reddit comment. EA ended up suspending microtransactions before the game was released, proving that every downvote counts.

A politician’s purr-view 

Twitter was charmed when a graphic designer’s toddler-aged nephew used her iPhone’s Animoji to ask, “Hello, how are you today?” It turns out it’s not just kids who love animal filters. During a live-streamed press conference earlier this year, Pakistani politician Shaukat Yousafzai had cat ears, nose, and whiskers superimposed over his face on the Facebook stream. His party said it was “human error,” and that someone had accidentally turned the cat filter on. It does seem a little suspicious, though, as his name is Shaukat. It would be like if Newt Gingrich was suddenly overlayed with a salamander filter during an interview.

Oopsie McOopsface

Back in the 18th century, Captain George Vancouver went around naming locations and sites after his ship, HMS Discovery. There’s a Discovery Passage, Island, Bay, and Port. If we still did things that way, you might one day sail through Boaty McBoatface Sea.

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Asadour Guzelian / Contributor / Getty Images

In 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council thought to itself, “Let’s let the internet name a polar research ship. What could possibly go wrong?” Into that optimism stumbled James Hand, who came up with Boaty McBoatface. With over 100,000 votes, Boaty McBoatface was the contest’s clear winner, but it was not to be. The NERC went with the much more dignified RRS Sir David Attenborough, but the Boaty moniker lives on as the name of one of the ship’s submersibles. Godspeed, you noble vessel.

Bye-bye, “Baby”

For years, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” was YouTube’s most-disliked video. Then YouTube’s own creation unseated the reigning champ. The 2018 version of YouTube Rewind now has over 17 million dislikes, far surpassing the 10 million “Baby” took years to accumulate.

The backlash to 2018’s Rewind was fast and fierce. Creator Marques Brownlee gave a detailed breakdown about what went wrong: Viewers and stars had certain expectations (a thoughtful look back at the year’s biggest stars and moments), and instead YouTube seemed to be catering to advertisers, shoving in cameos by Will Smith, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver, while leaving out some of the site’s biggest (albeit controversial) creators. The rest was a “chaotic barrage of clips” with little context, said Brownlee.

Those not steeped in YouTube culture likely had no idea what was going on. Even something as simple as putting people’s names up as they flashed on screen would have made the video less alienating to casual viewers. Even the “easter eggs” didn’t help demystifying the original video.

Hello, dollhouse 

Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t take a day off. She’s always listening, and, in 2017, tried to order a bunch of dollhouses. First, a Dallas child managed to order a $162 dollhouse through her family’s Echo Dot. Then a San Diego, California news station reported on the incident. “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,’” said the anchor. You can guess what happened next: Every Alexa in hearing distance took it as a command.

Most of the orders didn’t actually go through, since Alexa requires a verbal confirmation before making the purchase. Still, it’s not a flawless system: A year later, a commercial caused Alexa to order cat food for a viewer.

A walk-in to remember

The internet has allowed “interview from home” to be possible, and that’s what professor Robert E. Kelly was doing with the BBC when he and his family unintentionally became stars in 2017.

Kelly was discussing the impeachment of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, when his daughter marched into the room. Then his son followed, propelling himself in a baby walker. Finally, Kelly’s wife burst in after them, trying to corral them out of frame. Though the prof. initially seemed distraught about the collision of his personal and professional worlds, most viewers found it funny, endearing, and completely relatable.

The Babadook comes out

The movie The Babadook is from 2014, but Tumblr didn’t officially declare the character the Babadook a gay icon until a couple years later. It started as a joke (“Whenever someone says the Babadook isn’t openly gay it’s like?? Did you even watch the movie???”), then it grew and people actually started to embrace it. Why just automatically assume the Babadook is straight?

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People created fan art. One user Photoshopped the movie into a screenshot of Netflix’s “LGBT Movies” category. Was that real? Was any of it real? It was both Babadookian and typical Tumblr (RIP).

Pope-ular opinion

Earlier this year, Pope Francis tweeted a fairly standard message about canonizing five new saints: “Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession.” Accompanying the Saints hashtag was the fleur-de-lis logo for New Orleans’ NFL team.

Naturally, the rest of Twitter had to weigh in on whether this would affect the team’s chance of winning their game against the Jaguars. The Saints did go on to victory and said they were #blessed for the Pope’s tweet.

Dino-sartorial

Google is famous for its Easter eggs, spread across many products and services. With them, you know it’s on purpose. But in 2013, it seemed like Vogue’s website may have been hacked. Visitors inputting the Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A) found a velociraptor would appear on screen. Repeat the code, and you’d get another dino. The best part? They were wearing hats.

It turns out, the velociraptors were authorized but developers had forgotten about their existence until the day the site went full Jurassic parka.

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