Microsoft bans April Fools' Day pranks

'I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny'

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 28 March 2019 17:46
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What is April Fool's Day and what are its origins?

Microsoft has banned its staff from taking part in hoaxes and lies on April Fools’ Day.

Making things up and tricking people into believing them has become a staple of the tech industry at the beginning of April in recent years. Google, particularly, has led the way – but much of the technology industry has undertaken increasingly overwrought and convincing pranks as time has gone on.

Many of those hoaxes and lies have accidentally led to negative coverage, as well as the spreading of the kind of misinformation that companies like Facebook and Google have repeatedly been accused of spreading.

Some of the pranks have also caused problems in themselves, such as when Google in 2016 added a strange feature that led to people sending endless “minions” memes and accidentally muting important conversations. “We love April Fools jokes at Google, and we regret that this joke missed the mark and disappointed you,” it said after that prank, when it had been forced to pull the feature and apologise.

Now Microsoft says it is not worth taking part in those pranks, because they cause more harm than good. The company noted that people might have prepared their own jokes – but that they should not be shared, all the same.

“I appreciate that people may have devoted time and resources to these activities, but I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day,” said Microsoft marketing chief Chris Capossela in a memo seen by The Verge.

The full note made explicit reference to the problems being faced by the tech industry, which has received sustained criticism over its handling of issues such as false stories, abuse, election interference and screen time.

“It’s that time of year when tech companies try to show their creativity with April Fools’ Day stunts,” the note, as shared by The Verge, read. ”Sometimes the outcomes are amusing and sometimes they’re not. Either way, data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.

“Considering the headwinds the tech industry is facing today, I’m asking all teams at Microsoft to not do any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts. I appreciate that people may have devoted time and resources to these activities, but I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day.

“Please forward to your teams and internal partners to ensure people are aware of the ask to stand down on external April Fools’ Day activities.”

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