What was fake on the Internet this week: banana selfies, watermelon Viagra and burritos for hamsters


(hmerinomx/Flickr)

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. That banana selfie campaign was actually a planned marketing stunt … like pretty much every viral thing on the Internet (that isn’t a Kimmel prank). On Sunday, a racist fan threw a banana at Brazilian-born soccer star Dani Alves, who promptly ate the fruit and inspired the anti-racist hashtag #WeAreAllMonkeys. It’s a great message, and one that tens of thousands of fans quickly picked up on. It was also unfortunately a planned message, as Buzzfeed reported Wednesday. Per Spanish news, a Brazilian marketing firm orchestrated everything from the fruit-throwing to the hashtag. It’s all a bit bewildering.

2. Watermelon is not the new Viagra. Much to Pfizer’s relief, this annual summertime rumor has virtually no basis in fact. A study way back in 2008 did suggest a link between a nutrient called citrulline and increased blood flow, but it couldn’t be more tenuous: Citrulline only impacts blood flow indirectly, and it’s not organ-specific, like Viagra is. That regrettably does not stop outlets, such as Nerve and Jezebel, from falling for this one every year.

3. Smart public toilets are not tracking your pee. But wouldn’t it be creepy if they were? That was essentially the point of a hoax unveiled this week at a Toronto computing conference, which claimed — among other things — that new “quantified toilets” in the city were analyzing the gender, pregnancy status and intoxication levels of bathroom-goers. The hoax earned some attention from conference-going academics before its perpetrators copped to faking the whole thing as “a thought experiment” about surveillance in public places. Its Twitter feed lives on.

4. No one’s making tiny burritos for rodents for the heck of it. An adorable YouTube video of hamsters eating small burritos has ruled much of the Internet since going online Tuesday. As of this writing, it’s been viewed nearly 3 million times. Yes: Hamsters are cute, and the video is funny. But it may change your appreciation of said video to know it was made by a “social media marketing” company in an effort to beef up its YouTube following.

 

5. Stevie Wonder did not make an ad for Atari. The ’80s were crazy, but they weren’t this crazy. Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett isn’t sure who originally Photoshopped this viral image, which shows Wonder under the slogan “if I could play video games I’d play Atari.” (Wonder is, of course, blind.) Plunkett is pretty confident, though, that the fake derives from this real (less offensive) poster of Wonder endorsing a synthesizer.

6. This chart did not actually run on Fox News. It’s the creation of master Twitter provocateur @darth, who tweeted the mash-up to Vox’s Sarah Kliff on Tuesday. (For what it’s worth, TweetCred — that new tool that rates the credibility of tweets — correctly pegged this one as one out of seven.)

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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