Hoax blogger admits Citi Bikes not spying on riders

The mayor and police commissioner confirmed there are no surveillance cameras on Citibikes. Credit: Metro File Photo.
The mayor and police commissioner confirmed there are no surveillance cameras on Citi Bikes.
Credit: Metro file photo

A wave of panic tore through the city this week following a report of surveillance cameras embedded in Citi Bikes.

Perhaps that was a bit of an overstatement: A few people were confused and mildly alarmed due to a blog post implicating Citi Bikes as a participant in the surveillance of New Yorkers.

The report, written by a comedian named John Powers, was matter-of-fact and claimed to have discovered the cameras after being knocked off a Citi Bike by a callous cabbie. He defended his claim against skeptics who pointed out that a quote he used about surveillance from Mayor Michael Bloomberg came from an entirely unrelated New York Daily News article.

Another quote attributed to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly could not be found anywhere else and seems unlikely to be true, given the commissioner and the mayor both dismissed out of hand Wednesday morning the possibility of cameras on Citi Bikes.

Shortly thereafter, the blog writer, who had previously insisted on the veracity of his claims, wrote a new post acknowledging that the original post was a hoax.

“If anybody bothered to look at any of my other posts, they would’ve seen I’m a comedian,” the blogger wrote. “I didn’t attempt to hide that.”

However, after a few lines complaining about surveillance, Bloomberg’s controlling tendencies and Anthony Weiner’s sexting, he continued: “People said my article was not funny. I agree. It wasn’t meant to be funny.”

And when commenters on the original post initially expressed doubt, he reposted his story on his Google Plus page with the note: “People are questioning the legitimacy of this article. It’s completely true. There are two cameras inside every Citi Bike. They are not reporting this is mayor [sic] news outlets because they are being told not to.”

He had earlier claimed that “friends” at NBC “admit they are aware [of the Citi Bike cameras] but can’t say so.”

Powers told Metro he didn’t plan the story as a hoax; he meant to write Onion-esque satire.

“Basically what it blew up into was me being a pariah and trying to capitalize on people’s fears, which wasn’t really what I intended at all,” Powers said.

Powers justified his earlier insistence that the story was true by saying he “only did it for a day.”

“I was trying to back it while people were interested in it, but I wasn’t really trying to fool anybody,” he said.

He blamed careless readers and Twitter users for the post getting such traction.

“I think the fact that 135,000 people saw the blog means that someone was retweeting it and either didn’t realize I’m an entertainer or didn’t care,” he said.

Powers said he’s glad he got people riled up about the issue of privacy and surveillance, and noted that though the bikes may not have cameras, they do have GPS devices.

“They know where you shop, they know where you eat,” Powers said. “I think it’s something people should stop and think about more often.”

“We live in one of the most amazing cities in the world,” he added, “but it’s also one of the most closely monitored cities in the world.”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Chestnut Hill College student found dead Wednesday morning

A 22-year-0ld Chestnut Hill College student was found dead this morning inside a college dormitory, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

Arts

Peek behind the scenes at the Academy of…

Generations of visitors have marveled at the dioramas in the Academy of Natural Sciences, watching apprehensively at the puma perpetually poised to attack the unsuspecting…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.