#prayforportugal and how civil war started in Portugal

The following has to be the best April Fools joke ever pulled off that I’m aware of.

I have no idea how it started and honestly I wasn’t aware of what was going on until it was too late. But I still caught some action on Twitter with people completely puzzled trying to figure out how and why was the hashtag #prayforportugal trending, myself included.

First things first, a hashtag on Twitter if you’re not familiar with it is a word preceded with a “#” symbol that turns that word into a keyword on whatever people post there. Clicking that keyword/hashtag allows you to view a listing of posts with that specific hashtag on a time based priority, recent posts show up first. A trending hashtag is something that has been used quite a lot recently, so much that it made it to the top of hashtags being used. That’s where #prayforportugal started showing up, for some reason it was trending.

Like I said, I have no idea who or what or where it started but from what I can tell some twitter posts suggested civil war had started in Portugal and the hashtag came to life shortly after. Some reports state filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés (@rodrigocor7es) played a big part in it although to be honest this thing was bigger than him. Some of the posts I’ve seen on Twitter mentioned tanks moving in the streets and people stating they could hear bombs going off. I even spotted people saying Badajoz was being invaded by the portuguese army and some other folks seriously mad that the news agencies and tv/radio stations in Portugal were refusing to cover the event.

Pretty soon the hashtag was on fire and it started trending in Spain. With more and more people trying to figure out what was going on and using the hashtag for it…I’m pretty sure it reached worldwide trending for a while there, can’t confirm it.

During it all, mainstream media became aware of the situation and the following was posted to Twitter by both El País and Associated Press (AP). I’m not even sure if it was El País trying to pull an April Fools joke that started it all!



Stuff like this hits like a bomb in social media and as easily predictable the #prayforportugal hashtag gained even more momentum. When I became aware of it I was hardly able to keep up with all the posts, roughly 100 posts every 5 minutes with that hashtag. Crazy. Most of it with people trying to figure out what was happening while using the hashtag and thus giving it even more strength in the trending lists.

Eventually people started adding 1+1 together and figuring it was all a hoax, an April Fools joke gone global. The above screenshot posts were taken down and all that, but the hashtag didn’t die there. People were still using it either to try and understand what had happened or trolling around trying to have a laugh.

All in all, this was the best April Fools joke I ever heard of and surely worthy of a thought on how mainstream media can be influenced by social media or vice versa. I’m pretty sure people on journalism school could pick this up for a case study or thesis. How the “hive mind” works on social media and especially on Twitter is really interesting stuff, even when your country is apparently at civil war and invading our neighbors in Spain.