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. Kim Jong Un did not execute his porn-producing, Bible-thumping, pop star ex-girlfriend. But, like most salacious stories out of North Korea, this latest rumor had American media outlets — including the Wire and the Huffington Post — salivating over every improbable detail. Bookmark my colleague Terrence McCoy’s guide to viral North Korea stories for next time one of these crops up … probably within the month. In the meantime, here’s Un’s allegedly executed, allegedly ex-girlfriend making a speech just a few days ago.
2. Gap isn’t paying restitution to injured Bangladeshis. You may have seen a statement to that effect earlier this week on the (now-defunct) Web site GapDoesMore.com. The Web site, which claimed to be an official Gap production, said the company would provide “$200,000 in compensation to those affected by the Aswad Composite Mills fire,” among other things. In reality, the convincing faux-corporate site was created by the advocacy group 18 Million Rising, which wants Gap to contribute more to factory safety in Bangladesh. Per Forbes, Gap already belongs to a safety alliance and has made donations to the cause.
3. Justin Timberlake is not standing with Serbia. (Or if he is, he isn’t doing it in a viral photo that’s circulating Facebook and We Heart It.) Thanks to @hoaxoffame for pointing us to this one: It’s a photo of JT holding a sign expressing solidarity with Serbians, Bosnians and Croatians suffering in those countries’ floods. The photo actually originates from a 2011 campaign against human trafficking, and the original message — “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” — has been edited out. Between this and last week’s Ann Coulter debacle, celebrities might want to stop taking pictures holding signs. They’re too easy to edit! See photo above.
4. That photo of a “single drop of seawater” is … actually not. Have you seen this photo of a magnified drop of seawater? It’s amazing, which is why many, many people published it on Facebook, Twitter and major media outlets — including The Post. But at some point, a critical bit of context got lost in translation: These aren’t all the sea creatures that naturally occur in one drop of water; it’s sea creatures from many, many drops of water, artificially squished into one drop for a photo opp. “This was one of this amazing internet times where there is a total disconnect between people who know about zooplankton and everyone else,” wrote Miriam Goldstein at Deep Sea News. (Right!)
5. A hoodied man in Cinncinnati is not screaming profanities on live TV. A series of convincing (and — warning — NSFW) viral videos purport to show the man crashing broadcasts on Cinncinnati’s CBS affiliate, WKRC. But there are a few notable inconsistencies in the clips, like the fact that an oil spill referred to by a reporter took place months ago. Mediaite confirmed with WKRC that the intrusion never happened.
6. David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of “Ulysses” was not found on a curb in Cambridge. But an alleged photo of the book, with a caption to that effect, was tweeted by the novelist James Boice last week — from whence it quickly spread across Tumblr. Alas, Boice later admitted the book was not Wallace’s. It wasn’t even “Ulysses”! The whole thing was intended, per the Daily Dot, as a commentary on the Internet’s idolization of DFW.
David Foster Wallace’s marked up copy of Ulysses by James Joyce. Found this on a curb in Cambridge, MA. http://t.co/0uBIVQzTPj— James Boice (@jamesboice) May 16, 2014
7. Morrissey is not, and has never been, on Twitter. Its unclear why Twitter verified the since-deleted account @ItsMorrissey, which — according to statements by both Morrisey and his label — was not affiliated with the Smiths’ former frontman. Maybe Twitter was fooled by the account’s very official-sounding tweets, which included thank-yous to cities that Morrissey had recently toured.
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.