The internet may have propelled him to global super-stardom, but Justin Bieber is rapidly discovering there's more to online fame than screaming teenage girls and the occasional mild ribbing about your extravagant haircut.
In the past month, the 16-year-old Canadian singer has been forced to deny that he has died, that he has contracted syphilis and that his middle-aged mother has agreed to pose for Playboy, after users of internet bulletin boards conspired to spread false rumours to that effect.
Now Bieber has become the target of an internet prank which leaves him struggling to find a way out of exporting his teeny-pop stage show to the secretive, totalitarian nation of North Korea.
In a move he may live to regret, the singer asked visitors to his My World Tour website to take part in a poll to decide in which country he ought to tour next. There were no restrictions on the nations which fans could choose and Bieber has committed to performing in the most popular one.
The request was swiftly noticed by users of an internet bulletin board called 4Chan, who launched a campaign to nominate North Korea. With one day to go until the poll closes, it has leapt from 24th to first in the running, with more than half a million votes. That puts it narrowly ahead of Israel, although that country's chances are being hampered by a competing – and perhaps equally mischievous – campaign to send Bieber to Palestine.
Since internet access is denied to almost all citizens of North Korea, it seems unlikely that any of the votes have actually come from within the country. Although leader Kim Jong Il would have been able to cast a ballot, he is not thought to be a particular fan of Bieber. Instead, he is known to be keen on guitar legend Eric Clapton, who he once – unsuccessfully – invited to play in the capital, Pyongyang.
Should Bieber decide to make good on his promise, arranging to visit the country may also prove tricky. Government controls on the media mean that Western pop music is largely outlawed and a spokesman for the North Korean embassy told the BBC yesterday that any application to perform there would be dealt with by its mission to the United Nations.Reuse content