What was fake on the Internet this week: Wine machines, strangers kissing and Will Smith


Good news! Will Smith — pictured here at the Oscars — is still alive. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

There is so much fake stuff on the Internet in any given week that we’ve grown of tired of debunking it all. Fake Twitter fights. Fake DHL ads. Amazing viral video? Nope — a Jimmy Kimmel stunt!

So rather than taking down each and every undeservedly viral story that crosses our monitors each week, we’re rounding them all up in a quick, once-a-week Friday debunk of fake photos, misleading headlines and bad studies that you probably shouldn’t share over the weekend.

Ready? Here’s what was fake on the Internet this week:

This contraption can’t actually turn water into wine. The “Miracle Machine,” covered widely in the media last week, claimed to ferment wine in the comfort of your home, using concentrates, flavoring and a gadget that looked kind of like a futuristic toilet-brush holder. Because it was endorsed by Philip James and Kevin Boyer, two wine industry greats, a lot of people took it seriously. But as James and Boyer revealed this week, the whole thing was actually a clever and well-intentioned — if totally disappointing — stunt to raise awareness for the water charity Wine to Water. Word to the wise: If a consumer product purports to recreate a Biblical miracle — and retails for less than $500! — it’s probably best viewed with suspicion.

 

Related: D.C. doesn’t drink more wine than the rest of the United States. This type of skewed statistic happens pretty much any time you compare a city to a state.

That viral video of strangers kissing was actually a clothing ad. Moreover, the “strangers” were actually actors, models, musicians and other people who – to quote Slate’s Amanda Hess – “are experienced in acting out love, sex, and intimacy for crowds.” (This doesn’t make the video an all-out “fake,” admittedly, but it does kind of puncture its allure. If I wanted to watch actors make out, I could watch a romcom.)

There is no social network for drunk people. (Unless you count late-night Twitter.) “Livr,” an iPhone app and “global network of similarly buzzed people looking to have a good time,” purported to unlock only when activated by an iPhone-attached breathalyzer. But the two “dudebro” developers featured in Livr’s slick promotional materials are actually New York-based actors with no apparent tech credentials to their names.

 

Teen millionaires are, unfortunately, not making it rain on Twitter. @Princessthot and @ItsOnly1AM incited the hopes and dreams of many a Twitter user last weekend when they screenshotted pictures from their parents’ multimillion-dollar Paypal accounts and promised to distribute the cash randomly to followers. Alas, it’s really easy to fake your Paypal balance. There’s no evidence either account actually transferred funds.

Selfies are not causing an uptick in teen plastic surgery. Those “findings” come from an informal poll of fewer than 70 plastic surgeons, conducted via Survey Monkey. More legit surveys suggest selfies actually benefit teen self-esteem.

@Uberfacts — not so factual! The wildly popular Twitter account, which shares trivia to 6 million fans, actually doesn’t hold up so well to a thorough fact-checking.

 

Will Smith — still not dead! This peculiar urban legend has been circling the Facebooks since at least last October for no apparent reason. The actor is alive, well and not on Twitter — which would probably help clear the whole thing up.


A recent screenshot from my Facebook feed.

Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail caitlin.dewey@washpost.com — or stay tuned until next week, because surely some more shenanigans will go down in the meantime.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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