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. Yes, the world is going to end, but no, it won’t end like this. This YouTube video on “10 Things That Could Wipe Out Life on Earth” racked up 1.2 million views last week — in part because all its scary doomsday predictions came with citations to back them up. But when the fine folks at Truth Teller went through and actually checked those citations, it turned out the science wasn’t all there. Case in point: A pathogen could theoretically escape a biology lab. But a 2010 presidential commission found the risk was so small, they didn’t even want to regulate it. See the full fact-check here:
2. North Korea isn’t forcing college students to get a “Kim Jong Un” cut. As bizarre and hilarious as that would surely be, Western journalists and travelers in the country report they’ve seen no sign of the change — despite the many, many, many articles about it, on this site and elsewhere. But consider this a teachable moment about media coverage and cultural misunderstanding, as my former colleague Max Fisher did when he debunked a similarly implausible story out of North Korea in January. “Almost any story [out of North Korea] is treated as broadly credible, no matter how outlandish or thinly sourced,” he wrote. “There’s no other country to which we bring such a high degree of gullibility.”
3. There is no insane clown wandering around Staten Island. Well actually, there is — but it’s all part of a marketing stunt for a local horror film production company. On second thought, maybe that’s even scarier.
4. The Dutch prime minister did not arrive to meet Obama on a bike. As charmingly Dutch as that would be, the photo — retweeted more than 1,800 times! — actually dates from March 2012. While it’s unclear how that mix-up occurred, it is clear that Dutch bikers really don’t wear helmets.
This apparently is how the Dutch PM arrived to meet Obama today pic.twitter.com/Vn5JXhobki— Gernot Wagner (@GernotWagner) March 26, 2014
5. R&B singer Trey Songz is, in fact, straight. An unknown (perhaps hopeful?) prankster edited a screenshot from Songz’s Twitter, which appeared to show the singer coming out as gay. He later clarified.
If I’m gay then Tupac bringing me a ounce for this session wit Biggie tomorrow. No weapon. #LOVE— Trey Songz (@TreySongz) March 26, 2014
6. American Eagle is (probably) not making sweaters for dogs. The retail chain is, however, enjoying a tidal wave of publicity over a video about its “new” fashion line. Alas, American Eagle has a history of similar pranks: Last year for April Fool’s Day, the company launched a fake product called “skinny skinny jeans.” (They were spray-on. Get it?) This year’s video also contains a couple far-fetched tip-offs, like dog sunglasses and bucket hats. If those aren’t fake, they should be. (Also, Menswear Dog did wear it better.)
7. We still haven’t found Flight MH370. Unless such a report comes from the verified Twitter account of a news site you recognize — and features a photo other than this overused image of the Hudson River plane — please dismiss it out of hand. Many of these hoaxes redirect you to phishing sites.
Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org — or stay tuned until next week, because surely some more shenanigans will go down in the meantime.