Clearly the Instagram photo of the 18th birthday party is photoshopped. You’ve demonstrated enough proof that he’s real, and I see no reason to doubt it. The original video looks genuine, and I’ll take that over a bad Photoshop.

Bullied children — and adults — are distressed and often suicidal.

But, like punk rock, inciting a viral rumour is an artform in itself, and if one doesn’t care about the real-world effect on the people involved, just the spectacle of watching the thing spread like a destructive bushfire on a blazing hot day, then welcome to the world of arson and trolling.

There are Internet scammers out there, and pretending to be a bullied child for a half-million dollar payoff is something that one of these people would do. Passing along a warning to your gullible friends not to be gulled in is a good act, and enough people will feel the same way that the warning spreads and soon internet detectives are making their self-appointed knocks at the presumed scammer’s door.

Except he isn’t a scammer, he’s a little kid feeling vulnerable, and his mother wanted to protect him.

Surely the fact that a day or so after the news broke he was celebrated in person by a football team — and we have all sorts of videos and stories about the event — would be enough to demonstrate that he’s real? It’s one thing to scam the internet with a few plants of careful video, it’s another thing to fool a whole bunch of adults in the real world.

But these things don’t register with those who think it’s a scam. They have made a choice, and they are looking for confirmation. And if it’s a scam, then they will naturally be suspicious, and dig in deeper. Let's face it, these are folk that their friends identified as gullible to begin with; logical thinking isn’t their strong suite.

B

Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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