What was fake on the Internet this week: Terry Richardson texts, Mrs. Doubtfire scripts … and herpes


Connor Corum as Colton Burpo in a scene from “Heaven Is For Real.” Heaven may be real, but Burpo’s Twitter account is not. (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Allen Fraser)

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. Terry Richardson did not solicit a young model for sex. (Not this young model, anyway.) An alleged message sent by the photographer to model Emma Appleton, which promised a Vogue gig in exchange for sex, quickly went viral Monday — owing, in part, to Richardson’s reputation for appalling behavior. Richardson’s reps insisted the message was fake, and a Wednesday report in the New York Post would appear to back that up. Social media expert Theo Yedinsky told the Post the message was sent from an unverified Facebook account registered from “some random Gmail account” two weeks ago.

2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez did not write a farewell poem to friends. Several blogs, Twitter-users and at least one politician have resurfaced this old hoax in light of Garcia Marquez’s death late last week. Incidentally, this faux-farewell letter has a long history: It was initially printed in the Peruvian paper La Republica in 2000. How Garcia Marquez’s name became attached to the poem is unclear, since it was actually written by the Mexican ventriloquist Johnny Welch … for his puppet sidekick. Welch’s authorship has not, however, stopped people from attributing the poem to Garcia Marquez since his death.

3. Colton Burpo is not on Twitter. @TheColtonBurpo is pretty convincing: The account tweets regularly about #HeavenisForReal, links to the book’s Web site, and features a popular portrait of the lil man himself. But there are plenty of signs the account is fake (… besides its glaring lack of Twitter verification.) For one thing, no accounts associated with the Burpo family or the film follow it. For another, it makes a number of slyly subversive remarks that would seem to criticize the Christian film and its motives, including several allusions to Harry Potter (“the boy who lived”) and this 100-percent fictional tweet:

4. This is not the leaked Mrs. Doubtfire 2 script … because the Mrs. Doubtfire 2 script does not yet exist! As Post pop culture blogger Emily Yahr reported last week, “Fox 2000 is actively developing a sequel to “Mrs. Doubtfire” … [and] a script is also in the works. (Translation: There’s still a long way to go to see if this thing actually happens.)” Break’s “leaked” script seems like an obvious — if unfunny, and unmarked — attempt at satire. Regrettably, commenters didn’t interpret it that way.

5. You probably don’t have herpes. Vox did us all a service with this herpes explainer, which sheds some much-needed light on a common sexually transmitted disease that many people don’t understand. Its dramatic headline — “Bad news: you probably have herpes and don’t know it” — also prompted a flurry of panicked tweets Wednesday morning. As Nate Hopper helpfully debunked at Esquire, however, Vox is conflating the very common oral herpes (i.e., cold sores) with the much scarier, much rarer genital herpes (i.e., the STD). So yes, seven in 10 people will have one of the two strains — but you probably don’t have genital herpes. Call off the alarms.

6. Garcinia Cambogia is still not good for you. By now we should probably all be familiar with the sketchy weight-loss supplement, beloved by spammers, Twitter hackers and tacky web ads. But Yahoo Tech reports that a rash of new Twitter accounts were compromised Wednesday, leading to more spammy garcinia tweets than usual. As always, don’t click! Not only is the supplement more or less useless, but links could contain malware.

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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Caitlin Dewey | April 25