What was fake on the Internet this week: celebrity impressions, endangered redheads, and photos from Gaza


This photo – purportedly taken in Gaza this week — was actually shot in Aleppo, Syria, on June 26. It’s one of several deeply misleading viral photos currently making the Twitter rounds. (AFP Photo/Zein Al-Rifai/Getty Images)

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 guy who performed 29 spot-on celebrity impressions … actually didn’t. More than 7 million people have watched Rob Cantor’s “celebrity impression” video since he posted it to YouTube July 1, impressed — presumably — by Cantor’s claim that he could perfectly imitate everyone from Frank Sinatra to Kermit the Frog. Alas, in a second video posted Wednesday, Cantor confessed to hiring 11 professional voice actors. Just further proof that everything amazing on the Internet is a lie! (… and also that there’s no better way to publicize your middling pop song than with an undeservedly viral video.)

 

2. Climate change isn’t driving redheads to extinction. Per a widely circulated report in Scotland’s Daily Record on Saturday, climate change is making the world less cloudy, which is in turn reducing the need for the redhead-gene, which will one day guarantee the world domination of brunettes and blonds. Good news, gingers, there’s hope for you yet: As my colleague Gail Sullivan debunked Wednesday, virtually every piece of that logic is scientifically wrong. Also, the “expert” who originally made the claims isn’t a geneticist and has no formal training in the field. He has also claimed to have found descendants of Adam and Eve and the Queen of Sheba.

3. Google Glass will not give you “telekinetic powers.” A new Google Glass app called MindRDR cannot actually read your mind, despite both its misleading name and the enthused accounts of many a breathless tech blogger. Basically, the app uses a device called a Neurosky electroencephalography sensor (… whew!) to detect changes in the electrical signals coming from your brain. But as Will Oremus explains over at Slate, the Neurosky sensor is crude and imperfect almost to the point of being pointless, and MindRDR itself can only do two things. The technology’s still kind of cool — but it’s sure not telekinesis.

4. Facebook isn’t purging inactive accounts on Nov. 15. This nonsensical “warning” makes the Facebook rounds every few months — and every few months, suckers fall for it. The chain messages usually claim that Facebook is “overpopulated” or experiencing a “slowdown,” and that users who fail to forward the message to 15 people will be purged. In reality, of course, shuttering the accounts of inactive users would only hamper Facebook’s plans for global domination. And even if Facebook did want to close down old accounts, would Mark Zuckerberg send the e-mails himself…?

5. There is no Dexter-inspired serial killer making the rounds in Kentucky. But a story on Empire News — a “satirical and entertainment website” that is neither satirical nor entertaining — convinced thousands of gullible readers that just such a killer had murdered 17 people and dumped their bodies in the Ohio River. As WTVW in Henderson, Ky., helpfully explains, “the website is obviously not a creditable [sic] news source, as it quotes people in law enforcement who do not exist.”

 

6. LeBron James’s Web site doesn’t secretly hint at a Cleveland move. Grantland’s Matt Borcas titillated thousands of Cleveland Cavaliers fans Thursday with the claim that Cavaliers’ colors had recently surfaced in the code of LeBron’s personal Web site — a dead giveaway as to his still-unclear intentions. Alas, Post web developer Will Van Wazer double-checked the code and found no changes to the color scheme within the past five days. Let’s file this one away as another LeBron conspiracy theory.

 

7. Many of the photos you’ve seen from “Gaza” are fake. Old, misappropriated and otherwise misleading photos are the scourge of Twitter during any breaking news event. But when said event is controversial, confusing, and 6,000 miles away, the spread of misleading photos only gets worse. Per the BBC, many of the most viral images of “Gaza” circulating Twitter this week are actually from Syria and Iraq.

 

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 · July 10