What was fake on the Internet this week: Detached retinas, doodled passports and a murder caught on Google Streetview


Texting while driving might not be the best idea … but it won’t cause your retina to detach, at least. (LM Otero/AP)

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. Late-night texting did not cause some guy’s retina to detach. That story spread quickly outside of China, where it was first reported by the English-Language Want China Times. Fortunately, the man in question probably did not sustain his injury via frequent WeChat-ing with his girlfriend, as the Times reported. A New York ophthalmologist told the Daily Dot that “there’s no proof” that device use impacts the retina, and cellphone use and retina detachment haven’t been linked. It’s probably wise not to stare at your screen too much … but it’s also wise not to trust every crazy third-hand story out of China, as a rule.

2. A child’s passport doodles did not prevent some guy from leaving South Korea. Speaking of third-hand stories from China, Internet media very widely reported the story — first spotted on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Facebook — that a Chinese man wasn’t able to board a plane back home from South Korea because his 4-year-old had drawn all over his passport. 

It’s a pretty funny story, and it has some great photos of the passport to go with it. Unfortunately, as Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku pointed out, blowing up those photos reveals some peculiar anomalies: like the fact that the lines are all perfectly uniform and that, at one point, they slide right off the page. The doodles also mysteriously cover each and every bit of identifiable information on the passport. Ashcraft rules it a Microsoft Paint job; we’re inclined to agree.

3. Google Streetview did not capture a murder. But two mechanics in Edinburgh, Scotland, faked the crime so convincingly that police showed up to investigate. Per the Edinburgh Evening News, the men were at work in their garage when they spotted the Google car approaching and spontaneously decided to pose as if one man had just killed the other. They were reportedly “mortified” when police showed up — but not  mortified enough! One man told the news they plan to repeat the stunt next time Google updates maps.

4. Russian models are not posting #sexy #oiled photos to Instagram. On the contrary, the whole thing was just a (rather unsexy) marketing stunt for the Russian telecom agency MTS: The women posted images of Instagram’s load screen with hashtags like #hot and #naked to publicize the company’s new 4G service. Needless to say, the photos never load … because they don’t exist. Which is probably a good thing, because it sounds like they’d violate Instagram’s terms of service.

5. India’s favorite rapper is not dead. This week’s death hoax comes to us from Bollywood, where fans of the Punjabi artist “Yo-Yo” Honey Singh were horrified to learn that he died in a car accident over the weekend. Singh is, in fact, alive and well, and it’s unclear who’s actually pictured in the hospital photos that allegedly show him post-crash. The blog Live Punjab notes, somewhat comically, that this isn’t a rare event: “Several Bollywood celebrities have been a victim of death hoax and we have wished them a place in heaven and asked God to let their soul rest in peace,” wrote Minnie Mahendru.

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 · June 5