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Late-breaking April Fool prangs snoozing Guardianista

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Debate on the opening up of DNS allocation was today thrown into chaos, as the ruling council of San Serriffe put its foot down and demanded international recognition of its exclusive rights to ownership of the .ss top-level domain. "There is", thundered Lifelong President General Pica, "considerable value in the .ss domain. It may not be politically correct to say so: but worldwide, large numbers of military enthusiasts and right-wing political groups are interested in paying premium rates to use it."

Meanwhile, in other news borrowed from the Grauniad, we learn of a dastardly Met Police plan to force photographers wishing to take photos in central London to apply for monthly passes, to wear dayglo yellow jackets, and to be RFID-chipped.

What these two stories have in common is that they are both, of course, absolutely untrue.

The isle of San Serriffe appears in a top 100 of all-time best April Fool's jokes, and was perpetrated on an unsuspecting public back in 1977 by none other than, er, the Guardian.

The story of Metropolitan Police skullduggery appeared on the website of Editorial Photographers UK on 1 April of this year. Although it is written plausibly, the main giveaway is the large orange stamp on the page stating "April Fool".

Oh dear. The story, in its entirety, was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Guardian today. In an otherwise useful report on the obstacles that photographers face taking photos in central London, Mohammed Hanif includes pretty much all of the above, plus the interesting and, as far as we are aware, equally fictitious comment from the Met that "cameras are potentially more dangerous than guns".

That is not to minimise the issue. El Reg recently reported at length on the problems photographers have just taking photographs. Despite very good guidelines on how Police should treat photographers, hardly a week goes by without an instance of foot-in-mouth policing, as - usually - some junior officer or PCSO tries making the law up on the spot.

There was, too, the rather ill-judged Met campaign earlier this year to warn the public about how photographers might be closet terrorists. As today's article highlights, security guards can also be a source of difficulty.

On the other hand, a little more attention to detail might not be a bad thing. As the Guardian itself once asked: can you spot the April Fool's gags? If you can, it'd possibly be good of you to help the people who can't. ®

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