Today marks April 1st, which is celebrated around the world as “April Fool’s Day”- a day where friends and family alike play light-hearted pranks and jokes with each other in good spirit. But stretch back in history and one finds that jokes celebrated in the good-humoured spirit of April Fools have turned ugly quite fast.

Take for example the spaghetti tree hoax. In 1957, the BBC current-affairs programme Panorama, broadcasted a three-minute hoax report showing a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the family “spaghetti tree”. This resulted in mass minformation amongst Britons at the time, with a number of viewers afterwards contacting the BBC for advice on growing their own spaghetti trees. This resulted in the CNN calling the broadcast the biggest hoax ever pulled by a news organisation decades later.

The end of the 2010’s has so far seen massive changes in the media industry, with a decline of trust in mainstream media outlets. The increasing number of political leaders terming credible news organisations as “fake news” does not help in dispersing the lack of trust amongst viewers, who are now turning to social media, a far less trustworthy source of information. While April 1st has always been a source of laughs and fun, perhaps this season we should limit the marketing stunts and good-faith jokes, and reflect upon the many alternative facts and misinformation we deal with and believe in all the other days of the year too.