What was fake on the Internet this week: Banksy, bison and #SelfieBot


James Franco, pictured here in his 2013 film “Spring Breakers,” may or may not have engaged in some Internet tomfoolery. (Photo by Michael Muller)

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 take 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:

1. First things first: More or less everything you read online Tuesday was a lie. As they inexplicably do every year, dozens of consumer brands, tech companies and news organizations seized April Fools’ Day as an opportunity to fritter away lots of time and money on elaborate, only semi-believable pranks. To address some of the most amusing: Google Translate will not add emoji as a language; Apple did not acquire the Apple-hating repair chain iFixit; and drones will not take your selfies. Yet. (Is it really a selfie if a drone takes it…?)

 

2. Garamond can’t save the government $234 million. But props to the Pittsburgh teenager who made the proposal, which claimed a thinner, more efficient font would save millions in ink and paper. In actuality, the government doesn’t spend that much on ink to begin with. And experts say Garamond, which is smaller and more difficult to read, could create more problems than it solves.

3. James Franco may or may not have solicited a 17-year-old girl on Instagram. Unfortunately, fact and fiction blend all too readily in the confounding life of Franco — actor, poet and “performance artist” extraordinaire — so we can’t tell if this particular incident was an intentional stunt. It seems safe to say, though, that Franco probably knew a random teenager wouldn’t keep his weird messages secret. Even more damning? The illicit relationship between a teenage girl and a much older man is a theme in Franco’s forthcoming film, “Palo Alto,” whose trailer conveniently premiered the day before Franco sent his provocative Instagram messages.

4. Bison are leaving Yellowstone National Park, but not because the world’s about to end. The park service was actually forced to release a “rumor control” video on YouTube this week to combat reports of bison fleeing the park. According to videos, such as this one — which has been viewed more than 170,000 times — the exodus predicts a cataclysmic volcanic event that would “cover the United States in ash” (!!). The reality is a bit more mundane: Bison migrate like this every winter, looking for food.

 

5. Banksy is not on Facebook. A convincing profile did, however, fool more than 2.3 million fans and Facebook’s moderators, who verified it as legitimate late last week. Banksy’s publicist has since said the page was “100 percent fake.” For future reference, Banksy’s only confirmed social profile is on Instagram.

6. There is no Spanish music festival in Pyongyang. A popular Kim Jong Un impersonator using the Twitter handle @norcoreano — “North Korean” — invited the Spanish singer Leticia Sabater to perform at an all-expenses-paid international music festival in Pyongyang. Sabater, to the enormous amusement of her fans, neither questioned why the North Korean leader would solicit her, directly, nor why he would do it on Twitter, and in Spanish. She had actually begun negotiating a contract when she realized the account was a parody. For future reference, should Kim ever organize a music festival, one of his underlings would probably handle the bookings.

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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