Nashville web developer Shane Morris sat down at his computer Monday night, opened Twitter, and tried to go viral.
“Y’all wanna hear a story about the time I accidentally transported a brick of heroin from Los Angeles to Seattle?” Morris tweeted. “I bet. Alright, let’s do this…”
The story, according to Morris, went as follows: A few years back, he discovered a package of heroin in a van he had purchased. Instead of turning the drugs in, he quickly sold them—making him a self-confessed drug trafficker. For a year or so, nothing important happened. But then, the son of the van’s previous owner tried to buy back the van, ostensibly in an attempt to reclaim the heroin. According to Morris, he fooled the son into thinking that the heroin was still there by packaging a copy of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief and putting it where the drugs had been.
If this wasn’t crazy enough, Morris—still on Twitter—then taunted Salvadoran gang MS-13, claiming that he had tricked one of the gang’s members out of the money with a John Grisham book.
Morris’ tweets were a hit, garnering more than 67,000 retweets and getting aggregated across the internet. The heroin escapades offered the rare chance Twitter users to share in an experience that wasn’t about a disaster or politics, with one declaring it “the greatest fucking story I’ve ever read.”
“THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WILD,” tweeted New York Times reporter Sopan Deb.
A few days later, though, Morris is reconsidering whether his viral fame was such a good idea. Having taunted a deadly gang, he is now saying the thread was not true.
“I realized, because of my lie, that it’s not fun to fuck with MS-13,” Morris told The Daily Beast.
Morris said that his Twitter thread, which he stresses was a fabrication, has prompted real threats against his life. And so he’s embarked on a separate internet campaign to clean up the mess he created. In a Medium post on Friday, Morris insisted the story was fake.
“Most importantly, I definitely didn’t rob an MS-13 gang member,” Morris wrote. “In retrospect, that’s probably the dumbest thing you can write and put on the internet.”
Morris isn’t the first person to fabricate a Twitter story for internet clout and almost assuredly won’t be the last. In 2013, a Bachelor producer went viral for tweets about passive-aggressive notes passed on an airplane, but later admitted it was all fake.
But Morris may be the first to face death threats over his Twitter story, presuming that those threats are actually true themselves. Morris is supposedly in such risk, he said, that he made a GoFundMe page to pay for his disappearance along with his wife. The fundraising pitch is pretty straightforward: “I Need To Go Into Hiding.”
The viral Twitter thread and the follow-up viral thread retraction on Medium have meant an unusual level of notoriety for Morris, who runs a web development company. Before working in software, Morris worked as a music blogger.
As of Friday afternoon, Morris’s GoFundMe has earned just $140 of his $20,000 goal and GoFundMe won’t distribute any money to Morris, according to a spokesperson for the company, unless he proved that he plans to use the money for its “intended use.”
“The funds are on hold,” the spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Our Trust & Safety team has reached out to collect additional information. If the campaign organizer is unable to verify the intended use of funds raised on the campaign during our review, the campaign will be removed and all donations will be refunded.”
GoFundMe didn’t explain how Morris could prove that he would use the money to go into hiding. Doing so would seem difficult since revealing where you’re hiding defeats the point of hiding.
Morris declined to answer most questions on the record, although he did say he thinks his life is in danger—though it’s not clear why he thinks that members of MS-13 have even noticed his Twitter thread. There is no proof that its members have, and he offered no evidence of such.
Given that Morris has already admitted that he made up the Twitter thread, the details of his apology post on Medium could be called into question too. In one part of his post, Morris said he talked to a marijuana dealer who warned him about MS-13.
“Did you actually just casually throw out how you robbed MS-13?” the dealer said, according to Morris. “Bro, that is the fucking whitest shit I have ever heard in my entire life.”
At the end of the post, Morris declared himself to be “an opportunistic asshole with a brilliant imagination.”
Still, Morris insisted that he really is going into hiding because of his Twitter thread. Asked what advice he would offer to other people seeking to gain internet fame by making up stories, Morris said it isn’t a good plan.
“The attention wasn’t worth it,” Morris told The Daily Beast. “The lie wasn’t worth it. There is no lie worth this kind of hell.”