For a short while online, it appeared as though Banksy was not only identified but also unmasked. A fake press release was issued saying that Banksy was arrested and identified as Paul William Horner.
The press release was first found on PR Log, but it has since been taken down. Banksy -- the anonymous political activist, graffiti artist, and film director -- is famous for his subversive work, although biographical details about the U.K.-based artist remain relatively scarce. Some photographs have surfaced online, and some people believe Banksy to be Robin Gunningham, but don’t expect any questions about Banksy’s identity to be easily answered.
A press release detailing the arrest and identity of Banksy would have been quite the story. However, it turns out the release that was published on Friday was a fake. Jezebel’s original article on the Banksy arrest quoted the release as saying: “We received word that around 2am a group of individuals left a flat speculated to be one of Banky's art studios. This group was followed by agents and once vandalism had occurred, we then arrested the group, 5 men total. These individuals all had ID on them except for one, and that is the one we believed to be Banksy.”
The account continued, with the police allegedy raiding the studio and saying, “Found a passport and ID of a Paul William Horner who matched the description of the man that we are currently holding.”
Descriptions of Banksy’s arrest were also found on Super Official News, a satirical site, but they appear to be inaccessible at this writing.
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A Reddit thread on the Banksy press release was quick to note several problems, including the lack of any major news outlet covering the arrest and the revelation of Banksy’s identity. Some other mistakes, such as getting a commissioner’s name wrong, were also spotted by Reddit users.
Death and Taxes also reported that the press release about Banksy’s arrest was a hoax.
Banksy remains free, his identity has yet to be revealed, and the fake press release that went viral proves, once again, that you can’t trust everything you read on the Internet.