What was fake on the Internet this week: Twitter infidelity, French e-mail bans and NYPD dance battles


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who will not be auctioning a date with his niece to a campaign supporter, in City Hall last March. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

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. Twitter will not damn you to a lonely, loveless life. That was the conclusion many media outlets drew from a very buzzy University of Missouri study that “linked” — oh so tenuously! — Twitter use to “infidelity and divorce.” But the study didn’t find that Twitter use correlates with break-ups. It found that fights about Twitter correlate with break-ups. To which we can only say, yeah, obviously: arguments about anything (ice cream? yoga? the relative cuteness of pandas vs. puppies?) lead couples to break-up. If this is considered earth-shattering social media research, plz sign me up for academia.

2. France did not make it “illegal” to check work e-mails after 6 p.m.. Far from a sweeping law that impacts millions of French workers, the so-called e-mail ban is a mere agreement between labor unions and a federation of engineering and consulting companies. It will affect only 250,000 people, most of them in management positions, and it won’t make anything “illegal.” For more details, I leave you with Marie Telling of BuzzFeed France, who masterfully debunked this story last night.

3. New York City cops do not dance-battle on duty. One of New York’s finest did indeed appear to “KILL it” in an amazing YouTube dance-off video that made the Facebook and Reddit rounds this week. Alas, the officer in question outed himself on Reddit shortly after it went viral: “Hate to burst the reality bubble but … I am NOT a cop! I am a stunt man who was playing a cop on a movie set that day.” Who but a stuntman could do that kind of insane reverse worm?! (H/T the wonderful @jrstahl for sending this one along.)

4. You can’t date Rob Ford’s niece. It’s unclear how this particular hoax started, but several pro-Ford Facebook pages promised a date with Krista Ford, a college student and former lingerie football captain, to one of her uncle’s lucky supporters. Her father, Doug Ford, is on the warpath — he told the Toronto Star that he would “spare no expense to hunt these folks down and bring them to justice,” before grudgingly acknowledging that, even in Canada, Internet hoaxes are not illegal.

5. Merle Butler is not giving his lottery winnings away on Instagram. The Illinois senior and his wife did win a third of a $656 million jackpot in 2012. But they did not promise their millions to the first 50 people to follow the Instagram account @merlebutler — which shouldn’t really surprise anyone. As the Daily Dot points out, this type of scam is increasingly common and can be dangerous: Many ask for e-mail addresses, Paypal account numbers, and other personal information.

6. Justin Bieber did not make out with fellow pint-sized pop star Austin Mahone. File this one under “typical Internet shenanigans” — and remember that screengrabs of tweets are easily Photoshopped.

7. Nirvana has no plans to tour with a Kurt Cobain hologram. This story isn’t as far-fetched as it seems, given the success of Tupac’s Coachella hologram last year. The rumor originated, however, on the site National Report — which, like The Onion, is entirely fake. Cool it, Nirvana fans, and while you’re at it, familiarize yourself with this list of satirical Web sites.

8. Waffles aren’t supposed to be blue. An image circulating Facebook and Reddit claims that “yellow, brown or golden colored waffles are only that color due to the bleaching agents” in pesticides and encourages viewers to Google “blue waffles” for the truth. Don’t!! “Blue waffle” is the name of a fake sexually transmitted disease, which incidentally made the Internet rounds last year. It may’ve been a hoax, but Googling it still turns up lots of gross pictures.

Hoaxes perpetuating hoaxes. The Internet just ate itself.

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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