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. The praying-hands emoji is not a high-five. Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate caused a minor Internet scandal Thursday when it speculated that the praying-hands emoji is actually a high-five. Shocking as this news may have been, it’s also pretty baseless. Emoji, you’ll recall, are based on unicode characters, a kind of universal alphabet with discrete, well-defined meanings. The so-called “praying-hands emoji” corresponds to Unicode Character 1F64F, “person with folded hands,” which can, per Unicode, indicate pleading, sorrow or regret. Sorry, high-five fanatics: Regardless of whatever ABC6 or Emojipedia tells you, there’s no room for interpretation here.
2. There is (probably) no “Straight White Guy Festival” in Ohio. A series of posters advertising the event in Columbus’ Goodale Park — which is, suspiciously, also the home of the city’s gay pride parade — went viral this week after half a month of annoying locals, per Columbus’ WBNS news. City officials told The Post that no one had requested permits for the festival, suggesting that it was just a stunt to drum up controversy. Napoleon Bell II, executive director of the city agency that oversees “issues of ethnic, racial and cultural diversity,” said his agency had not even “heard about these fliers being distributed.”
I’ve never been big on festivals, but, I’d like to go to this one … ‘Straight White Guy Festival’ … sounds fun :) pic.twitter.com/KrMxZfZioL— Max (@kevin_maxwell) July 19, 2014
3. Amelia Bedelia’s character was not based on “a maid in Cameroon.” That ahistorical tidbit circulated the Twitters last weekend after a New Yorker editor spotted it on the Wikipedia page for the classic children’s books. EJ Dickson, a writer for the Daily Dot, later confessed to making the (totally fake) edit in 2009, when she was a sophomore in college. “It was the kind of ridiculous, vaguely humorous prank stoned college students pull, without any expectation that anyone would ever take it seriously,” Dickson wrote. But apparently, many people did take it seriously — including prominent academics, bloggers and the book author’s own nephew, who cited the non-fact in an interview. (For what it’s worth, Dickson’s essay on what that says about truth, fiction and Wikipedia is really worth reading in full.)
4. Michele Bachmann does not want to send immigrant children to labor camps. Bachmann’s alleged plan to build “Americanization Facilities” in the Arizona desert enraged bloggers at outlets like Think Progress and the Daily Kos, who quoted liberally from a KCTV report on Bachmann’s “new solution to the humanitarian crisis.” The only problem, of course, is that KCTV is one of those beloved fake news sites, and the story originated on the satirical National Report. In everyone’s defense, it was far more convincing than the usual faux-satirical blather we usually see.
5. A killer whale did not eat 16 Japanese whalers. Speaking of faux-satirical blather, this misspelled, ungrammatical gem of a “parody” ran on World News Report, the Web site that previously brought you the story of the woman who called her ex 77,639 times in one week. It was quickly eaten up (heh) by the Internet’s more gullible environmentalists, who have shared it more than 330,000 times. Like everything on World News Report, of course, it’s 100 percent untrue.
Wonderful karma. http://t.co/Oqy7SPyhhL— April Hernandez (@TheSunManager) August 1, 2014
6. President Obama did not have a bizarre telephone stand-off with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The “transparently fictional” transcript, published (as fact!) by Israel’s Channel 1, attracted a score of semi-hilarious parodies, which Vox’s Max Fisher has rounded up here.
OBAMA: The bombings must stop. They are not good BIBI: They are good and we will– BIDEN: Cowabunga OBAMA: OMG Joe get off the other line— Eric Schroeck (@ericschroeck) July 29, 2014
7. Tucson’s mass transit system is not called “The CLITT.” But the racy acronym, allegedly short for “Community Link Integrated Transit of Tucson,” did get its own Facebook page, Web site and George Takei shout-out this month, which have hoodwinked readers both in an out of Arizona. (Wrote one Facebook commenter on Takei’s Facebook post: “I live in Tucson and its really called that.”) Tucson’s streetcar is actually called the Sun Link, and city officials are reportedly very annoyed by the confusion. The man behind the fake pages told the Tucson Sentinel that he’s just “using humor to reveal truths” — whatever that means.
8. That viral video does not show a kid firing a missile on a Gaza beach. The video, in which a child fires a rocket-propelled grenade into the sea, has been shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, frequently with captions condemning Palestinians. But according to the (pro-Palestinian) news site Electronic Intifada and the BBC’s Ravin Sampat, the video actually dates from before the current conflict and was probably filmed in Libya: multiple language experts and journalists told EI that the accents and architecture in the film correspond to North Africa, not the Middle East. While we’re in the region, an official Israeli Twitter account has also been tweeting gruesome photos and claiming, inaccurately, that they’re associated with the Gaza conflict.
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.