What was fake on the Internet this week: Pregnant tarantulas, Fried Chicken Oreos, and anti-Semitic ‘feminist’ tweets


Don’t get mad! Orange is the New Black has no plans to cancel. (Netflix)

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. There are no pregnant tarantulas roaming South Brooklyn. A series of “missing” posters for a Mexican tarantula named Penelope earned homepage play on Gothamist, New York mag and the New York Post late last week before an intrepid Times reporter tracked the truth down. Never fear! The whole thing was a “joke,” perpetrated by a hoaxer convinced that “it was so beyond ridiculous that no one would take it seriously.” Clearly, he was wrong: Tweets about the tarantula peaked at 800 per hour at one point last Friday.

2. Netflix isn’t cancelling “Orange is the New Black.” So-called “satire” site Empire News published a misspelled, error-ridden and generally counter-factual story on the cancellation last Friday, but — alas! — those clues failed to tip off a gullible Internet public, which shared the story more than half a million times on Facebook and Twitter. Both Netflix and the show itself took to Twitter to debunk it.

3. Conor Oberst did not attack an xoJane commenter a decade ago. The woman, who originally made her claims about the singer in a post on the women’s Web site, and later repeated them on Tumblr, recanted the allegations in a notarized statement this week. The hoax had previously polarized Oberst’s rabid online fandom and threw the musician’s reputation into question; as I wrote in greater detail on Tuesday, that makes it a great case study in how Internet rumors become news.

4. There is no such thing as a Fried Chicken Oreo. The (obviously Photoshopped) image of a “limited edition” Oreo box, resplendent with big hunks of deep-fried meat, hit Facebook and Instagram earlier this week — where, in the immortal words of Perez Hilton, it spread “faster than a case of mono at a college frat party.” Alas, a Nabisco spokeswoman confirmed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the flavor “is in fact not real.” You can excuse the mix-up, though — after all, Lays is contemplating a cappuccino-flavored chip.

5. This veggie burger is not made with “100% real beef.” Foodies of both the vegetarian and carnivorous varieties were rightly flummoxed by a viral newspaper ad promising “a veggie burger that contains REAL BEEF.” (“How are they vegetarian?” a callout asks. “We don’t know … they JUST ARE!”) But despite the attention from Twitter users and food blogs, the ad isn’t real: It came from a British humor magazine called Viz, which specializes in “spoof adverts.” That’s advertisements, to you non-Brits.

6. Feminists are not tweeting “against Jews.” The hashtag #FeminismAgainstJews originated on trouble-making message-board site 4chan, as such hashtags frequently do. It’s since been tweeted roughly 680 times from sock-puppet accounts, but — unlike #EndFathersDay, and other similar 4chan pranks — does not seem to have taken off.

7. Giancarlo Stanton did not disfigure a Minnesota man during the Homerun Derby. The man, 19-year-old Jordan Jacobson, tweeted a gruesome picture of his bruised and swollen hand after trying to catch a Giancarlo Stanton homer without a glove on Monday. In fact, the man admitted Thursday, his hand looks that way because of a birth defect, and the whole thing was “a funny joke between friends [that] quickly got away from me.” His father adorably told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Jordan has learned from his mistake; no word on whether Stanton’s still giving him a glove and Homerun Derby ball.

8. Angry fans did not burn down Lebron James’ Miami mansion. But a story to that effect on “comedy” site Cream Bmp Daily — which, if this is possible, is even sloppier and less funny than Empire Sports — was shared more than 31,000 times on Facebook. “Omg i cant believe they did that,” one local commented, “at the end of the day lebron james did so much for miami.” “Dummy,” another man wrote back. That seems about right (!).

9. Twitter does not prove the World Cup was fixed. A number of Twitter accounts — including, most intriguingly, an account called “FIFA Corruption” — appeared to accurately predict the winner of Saturday’s World Cup final, down to who scored the winning goal and when in the game he scored it. That does not, however, mean that FIFA Corruption et al. actually knew the results of the game. On the contrary, this is a pretty easy con: It just takes a little patience and a lot of private tweets, as Andy Baio explained on Medium.

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 17