What was fake on the Internet this week: Bees, Zs, KFCs and SOS calls from sweatshop detainees


This KFC did not kick a disfigured 3-year-old out. In fact, no KFC anywhere did. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

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. A disfigured 3-year-old was not kicked out of a Mississippi KFC. Outraged readers across the country boycotted KFC — and donated generously to Victoria’s recovery — after hearing the girl was asked to leave a KFC franchise because her facial scarring “scared” other customers. The little girl did, in fact, have severe health problems as a result of a pit bull attack in May. But according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, there’s no sign of her on security footage from local KFCs. That paper’s reporting implies that the girl’s family invented the KFC incident to help cover her medical bills. They raised $135,000.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo did not cut his hair in solidarity with a sick fan. The soccer player regularly sports smirk-inducing hair-dos, but the “Z” he cut into his head last weekend was really something else … so much so, in fact, that Twitter began calling it a show of solidarity with “a young fan who had surgery to remove a brain tumor.” The only problem with that story? The account that started it is a self-proclaimed parody, and no one with the Ronaldo camp has confirmed that it’s true. Also, the so-called “young fan” is just over a year old.

3. Mistreated sweatshop workers are probably not sewing SOS calls into British clothes. The British clothing chain Primark was forced to respond Wednesday after customers claimed to find not one — not two! — but three “help” messages written on tags in their clothes. The so-called SOS calls are a little fishy, though: Not only were all three attached to clothes the store sold several years ago, but two very similar messages appeared in clothing that was manufactured on opposite sides of the world. Primark has promised to investigate, but there’s certain huffy skepticism in its tone.

4. This is not a photo of that tornado that struck southwest of Indianapolis. It’s a picture of North Dakota from the 1950s — but nice try, would-be photo-hoaxing guy.

5. Bees do not save their pals from spider’s webs. A (questionably heart-warming) YouTube video of a bumblebee rescuing another bumblebee from a lurking spider has been viewed more than 2 million times by Redditors and other armchair entomologists. Unfortunately, a real-life entomologist punctured the bubble of bumblebee love this week: Bees “would never come to the aid of another bee away from the nest,” biologist Dave Goulson wrote on The Conversation, and the video really just depicts “two clumsy bees trying to find their way home.”

6. Soulja Boy and Betty White are both alive. Those fictitious rumors started on Twitter and the unfunny fake news site eBuzzd, respectively.

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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