In the last few days, a homeless man in Ohio named Ted Williams has become a viral internet sensation because he has a golden radio voice. Ted, a panhandler was standing at an intersection when someone took a short video of him and uploaded it to the internet:
The simple handwritten cardboard sign Ted was holding reads:
I have a God given gift of voice. I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard time. Please! any help will be greatfully appreciated :) Thank you and God bless you, happy holidays.
Since the video was taken yesterday, God has clearly shined a light on Ted as his fortunates are turning around. While being interviewed on local radio station WNCI, Ted said he has been offered a full time job with the Cleveland Cavaileirs and a house! If a source of income wasn’t the most amazing gift for a homeless person, a house to live in must seem like all his Christmas’s have come at once.
Now onto the dirty, filthy, grubby part of the story and it relates to unscrupulous individuals capitalising on the viral nature of the Ted Williams sensation and trying to cash in for some quick, easy dollars.
YouTube provides related or suggested videos to the right of the video you’re watching on their site. When watching the embedded video above on YouTube, the image to the right is what I’m seeing at the moment. Highlighted are five videos belonging to four different YouTube accounts, each beginning with ‘usnews<number>’ with a similar but different copy of the video.
If you click the related video, the user has essentially made a still video with an overlay stating that they can’t show you the video and you’ll need to click the link in the video description to watch the video. As soon as the overlay popped up and the video wasn’t available, it was clear it was just a scammer trying to make some money.
Digging a little deeper and you can see that each of the ‘usnews<number>’ accounts has uploaded the video between six and a dozen times to each account. Each video has a different name, slightly different length and links to a page on the same domain for the user to watch the video with ads plastered all over it.
They are employing fairly standard video search engine optimisation techniques, by providing a good video name, categories and description. By uploading dozens of copies of the same video but changing it each time, they are maximising their opportunity of having one of their videos rank when a YouTube user goes looking for Ted Williams. At the time of writing this, usnews57 has 10 different versions of the fake video which have been viewed just under 2500 times.
It disappoints me no end that people will go to these lengths to make a dollar. I know it is easy and no one is necessarily being hurt by their actions but the fact that they would essentially take advantage of a homeless man and his amazing good fortunately indirectly is sickening.