The Washington Post

What was fake on the Internet this week: Kurt Cobain, James Bond and desert island rescues

An undated photo of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain (AP Photo)

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:

Wayne Knight is alive and well … as is the celebrity-death hoax. Rumors of the “Seinfeld” actor’s death exploded on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend after a semi-legitimate-looking Web site claimed that Knight had been in a fatal car crash. This semi-legitimate-looking  site apparently exists solely to make ad money off hoaxes like this one. So, caveat lector: If you’ve never heard of the Web site running an unbylined, unsourced story on a celebrity death, it’s probably not real.

Seattle police are not reopening the Kurt Cobain case. My colleague Mark Berman has done a masterful job debunking this one, but here’s the short of it: A Seattle news station mistakenly reported that local detectives had new “developments” in the case of the Nirvana frontman’s death in 1994. In fact, a cold case detective was just developing higher-res versions of already existing pictures. (Developing, developments — easy mistake.)

The next James Bond movie will not be called “Come and Drive.” Several fan sites posted that big news, along with the tantalizing promise that the next film’s plot would involve “a mysterious stranger” and “long forgotten secrets.” But both the name and the plot hints came from a fictional press release. It’s unclear where the release originated, but an accompanying teaser trailer, since removed from YouTube, consisted mostly of footage from Bond actor Daniel Craig’s appearance at the 2012 Olympics. “In related news,” joked the L.A. Times’s Steven Zeitchik, “Wayne Knight is reported to be negotiating for the role of the villain in the new film.”

Google Earth did not find a woman trapped on a desert island. Facebook users have shared this article more than 20,000 times, despite its dubious origins on “” The story recounts the travails of Gemma Sheridan, who purportedly washed up on a beach, built a hut with tree bark and clam shells, and wrote an SOS message in the sand before someone saw it on Google’s satellite view. Alas, much of the text is plagiarized from a (real) survivor’s account, and the photo was taken from an Amnesty International report.

There is no Noah’s Ark. This is less a new hoax than a persistent (and perhaps deliberate) misunderstanding. But it appeared in the news again this week when Fox News host Bill Hemmer fretted it would take as long to find Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 as it did Noah’s Ark. “It took us 2,000 years to find Noah’s Ark,” he said — apparently unaware that “the Ark” outside Dogubayazit, Turkey, is in fact a pretty standard volcanic rock structure.

Jimmy Kimmel’s “Lie Witness News” contains actual lies. File this one away in the “fairly obvious” category, but Kimmel has repeatedly claimed the man-on-the-street segments are neither misleading nor staged. It would, however, appear that they’re about as un-staged as an A&E reality show.

Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail — 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. (



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