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. A Chinese city didn’t seriously add a “texting” lane to its sidewalks. Much like a similar project undertaken in downtown D.C. a few months ago, officials in Chongqing, China, added a short “texting-while-walking” lane to a city sidewalk — not because they’re legitimately worried about text-walkers, as has been reported, but as a kind of tongue-in-cheek pedestrian PSA. Perhaps because nuances like humor tend to get lost in translation — or perhaps because of some darker bias — viral media quickly picked up on the Chongqing-battles-texting narrative. But as one official told AP, “it’s intended to be ironic.”
2. You can’t charge your iPhone by microwaving it. A slickly produced, and entirely fake, Apple ad circling Twitter proclaims a new and exciting feature in iOS8: the ability to charge your phone, wirelessly, in “any standard household microwave.” Needless to say, no such feature exists — and for future reference, new operating systems can’t magically rewire your phone’s battery. (And this, FYI, is what a microwaved iPhone looks like.)
3. This one-eyed baby is not “the Muslim antichrist.” An image of a child born with a rare birth defect called cyclopia — she has no nose, and only one eye — has recently made the rounds on both mainstream social media and, allegedly, the more underground Internet channels that Islamic State militants use. The claim, in both cases, is that the girl was recently born in Israel and is the false, one-eyed prophet Masih ad-Dajjal who more or less signals end times. Experts told Vocativ that they believed Islamic State, also known as ISIS, could be using the story for recruiting. But as Scott Carney, the man who originally took the girl’s pictures, angrily explained on his blog, the picture was actually taken in Chennai, India, eight years ago, and the girl died before she reached a month old.
“It is important to combat the lies that spread across the internet,” he wrote. “The militant group ISIS has an extensive social media network and is savvy about deploying false information to encourage converts to fight on their behalf. It behooves us–or at least me–to speak up when I see images misused.”
4. A California man did not steal his girlfriend’s corpse from the morgue. A very popular Reddit post by a (now-deleted!) user claimed that the gentleman in the below picture had stolen his girlfriend’s dead body to take one last selfie with it. In fact, as many a Redditor suspected already — and as Gawker confirmed Thursday — the “body” is a movie prop, the guy works on “NCIS,” and the whole thing was a big joke. Incidentally, police don’t always find this kind of thing funny: A Connecticut man who pulled a more-or-less identical stunt last week was charged with second-degree breach of peace.
5. Florida schools are not teaching middle-schoolers to use sex toys. In what may be one of the more bizarre attacks on the controversial Common Core curriculum, Alex Jones’s Infowars — best known for its propagation of wonderfully imaginative conspiracy theories — published a series of “shocking images out of a classroom in Jacksonville, Florida” that show “a teacher demonstrating how to use a strap-on sex toy” to 11-year-old students. The story has since disappeared, perhaps because a quick reverse image-search make it pretty clear that the images came from an LGBT event at a college in Canada … and that the story itself originated on Modern Woman Digest, a bad “satire,” i.e. fake-news, site.
6. A Coney Island roller coaster did not fly off the tracks. But as the New York Times reports, in a rather fascinating story on the complicated consequences of fake-news, a fictional account to that effect spread from the site NY Meta to the wilds of social media … and has plagued Coney Island developers, who put a lot of money into the new ride.
7. Neither Macklemore nor Jason Mraz has died. But news of both their deaths briefly captivated a certain corner of the Internet last week, as these celebrity death hoaxes always do: More than 6,000 people tweeted on the #RIPMacklemore hashtag, while Mraz earned a more modest 2,000 tweets.
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.