Last week, the internet rallied around a Vietnamese-Australian man after Facebook allegedly kept shutting down his account merely because of his name: Phuc Dat Bich. Bich, whose name would be pronounced something like “phoo dat bic,” got his account back and posted a heartwarming message thanking fans for their support. And they all lived happily ever after, right? Well, phuc dat, because a former classmate now claims that Bich has hoaxed us all.
Phuc Dat Bich is an actual Vietnamese name, but it apparently doesn’t belong to the man at the center of the controversy. Someone claiming to have known Phuc since his school days told Mashable that his real name is Thien Nguyen, and even provided a yearbook picture as evidence.
Phuc Dat Bich’s story began to unravel from there. Mashable linked the license-plate number of a car seen on Phuc’s Facebook page to Thien Nguyen, and Australian journalists claimed that the passport Bich posted to prove his story was a Photoshopped fake.
Apparently realizing he’d been found out, Bich/Nguyen claimed his name was really Joe Carr (“Joker,” as Mashable helpfully points out) and confessed to the prank in a Facebook post:
“Do you remember the story; The boy who cried wolf?” he wrote. “Imagine that boy grew up into a mischievous man with 21st century technology at his finger tips.”
“It goes to show that an average joe like myself can con the the biggest news sources with ease.”
How did this prank escape the usual skepticism of so many media outlets, though?
It helps that Phuc Dat Bich is a real name — or at least a combination of three real names — that was even used as a cautionary tale about proper Vietnamese pronunciation in this months-old YouTube video:
Knowing that, observers were probably less likely to scrutinize the passport for subtle signs of Photoshopping.
And finally, Facebook’s fraught history of strictly enforcing its real-name-only policy makes it perfectly believable that the social network would botch the case of someone with a non-Western name. Just this month, a Facebook executive admitted the real-name policy, which requires some users to verify their accounts with government-issued ID, is broken and announced plans to improve it starting in December.
It’s a real problem, just not Phuc Dat Bich’s real problem.