What was fake on the Internet this week: biometric earpods, semen cupcakes and photos of ‘our girls’


Ami Vitale’s photographs of women from Guinea-Bissau, including this one, have been taken out of context. (Courtesy of Ami Vitale)

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. Apple is not making biometric earpods. (And the anonymous-sharing app Secret is not all that it’s cracked up to be.) Last week a prankster posted on Secret that Apple’s next generation of free earpods would include “sensors in them, for heart rate & blood pressure,” as well “iBeacons so they don’t get lost.” Because Secret has lately become a hotbed for leaks from Silicon Valley insiders — and since Apple does have related health patents — lots of tech sites took the rumors seriously. Alas, it was all a joke, and the still-anonymous jokester feels really bad about it. “I hope Apple does come out with a device like this,” he or she wrote in a confessional post on Tumblr, which is linked from the original Secret post. “Because regardless how much of an accidental troll I am. It would be a pretty neat device.”

2. A bullied high-schooler did not feed her classmates semen-laced cupcakes … though she told them that she did. In a stomach-turning revenge tale seemingly engineered for virality, a student at Centennial High School in Bakersfield, Calif., passed out the snacks to classmates who picked on her and later told them they were filled with semen, pubic hair, expired food and pills. Local news later verified the cupcakes contained mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and soy sauce … but no bodily fluids. Phew.

3. An elderly white man did not tell a black woman to sit in the back of the bus. At least not in this horrifying video, which has been shared more than 150,000 times on Facebook alone. The video was uploaded by a New Yorker named Zaida Pugh, who says the incident went down on May 5 on the B35 bus in Brooklyn. But Pugh, an actress, also goes by the name Ms. Muffin — and she runs an entire Web site devoted to “prank/skit videos … that put messages out there.” Many of the videos take place on public transit and depict charged confrontations similar to this one.

 

4. This photo does not depict an abducted Nigerian girl. As my colleague Terrence McCoy brilliantly debunked Friday morning, one of the most popular images from the Nigerian conflict was taken by photographer Ami Vitale in Guinea-Bissau … 14 years ago. It seems the confusion was kicked off by a designer in Lagos, who ripped the image from a photojournalism foundation’s Web site and slapped his watermark on it. Vitale is rightly horrified by the misappropriation: “SHE IS NOT NIGERIAN AND HAS BEEN MISREPRESENTED TO USE FOR YOUR CAMPAIGN. TAKE DOWN!” she tweeted Wednesday.

5. Delta Airlines isn’t giving away free flights on Instagram. The ungrammatical nature of the handle @Delta.Airline didn’t stop more than 16,000 people from following an Instagram account that claimed to be giving away free flights. Delta’s actual Instagram handle is @Delta, and the @Delta.Airline account has since been shut down. Pro tip: If there are grammatical errors in a corporate social media handle, it’s probably not legit.

6. “Shovel girl” is neither dead nor on Twitter — at least not on any of the many Twitter accounts that have popped up in the past three days. Miranda Fugate, the subject of a massively viral Vine video that shows a high school girl getting hit with a shovel, is very much alive — though she did suffer a concussion when her head hit the pavement, according to local radio. The death rumor began on the hoax site Huzlers, which (for the thousandth time!) is always fake. While we’re on the subject of undead Vine stars, Bryan Silva is just fine, too.

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 is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)

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Caitlin Dewey · May 8, 2014