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. There’s more big news than usual:
1. 4chan did not threaten to leak Emma Watson’s nudes. Like a lame Internet sequel to Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” the big Emma Watson Nude Leak of 2014 was basically … a hoax within a hoax within a hoax. (Where to begin?!) Essentially, a marketing company called Rantic posed as users of the infamous, oft-misunderstood message board 4chan, claiming they’d leak stolen photos of Watson at midnight on Sept. 24 in retaliation for a feminist speech she made at the United Nations.
When the appointed hour came, of course, Rantic revealed that there were no pictures and no 4chan conspiracy. In fact, there isn’t even a Rantic Marketing! The “company,” which swore it was hired by Hollywood publicists, is actually just another front for a group of Internet pranksters called Social VEVO. To quote the Guardian’s James Ball in an excellent essay on the debacle, “the Internet is eating itself.” Basically.
2. Alisha Hessler, a.k.a. Jasmine Tridevil, does not actually have three boobs. The photos were convincing, but alas, the science is less so. A 21-year-old Florida woman going by the alias Jasmine Tridevil claimed the Internet’s attention this week with claims she’d had a third breast implanted to (a) get a reality show and (b) ward off men.
It turns out, however, that getting a third boob is not a simple matter of — you know — sticking a third one in there. As several plastic surgeons explained to the Daily Dot, such a procedure would require multiple painful surgeries over many months, and wouldn’t yield results anything like Tridevil’s. A gotcha find by Tampa’s WTSP 10 News seals the deal: Earlier this month, Tridevil filed a claim for bags stolen from the Tampa International Airport … and the incident report listed a “3 breast prosthesis” as missing.
3. The iPhone 6 does not have a bending problem. Call it #bendgate, call it Bendghazi, call it what you will — but the widely hyped rumors that the latest iPhone bends easily under pressure are totally exaggerated, if not straight-up untrue. Of the millions of iPhones sold in the past week, Apple says, only nine customers have complained about bending. And when my colleague Hayley Tsukayama got SquareTrade, a durability tester, to check out the phone, they ruled it bend-proof — except when attacked by a body-builder who can bench 405 lbs. Needless to say, your phone probably won’t take that kind of damage unless you’re making an iPhone-destruction video. You can thank our friends at 4chan for this particular shenanigan.
4. An adorable beagle does not actually work for KLM. On Tuesday, the Dutch airline KLM published a YouTube video starring an adorable beagle named Sherlock, who — allegedly! — works with the airline’s lost and found team to scout out lost baggage.
Alas, the only thing lost in this case is our sense of child-like joy/wonder. The whole thing was a marketing stunt, a.k.a. lie, devised by KLM’s ad agency. At least we got this GIF out of it:
5. Facebook is not charging a monthly fee. In further proof that the Internet rarely learns from its mistakes, an ancient and improbable rumor cropped up yet again this week: Facebook, per the irate posts of many of its users, will begin charging $2.99/month to use the site starting Nov. 1. This rumor is an old one, dating back to at least 2009, but this latest recurrence seems to have begun on the satire (“satire”) site National Report. As a friendly reminder, everything on National Report is fake. And of course, Facebook doesn’t need your money — you’re already paying it in deeply personal data. Now there’s a subject worthy of the Internet’s attention.
6. Famed Instagram playboy Dan Bilzerian was sadly not arrested this week. Dan Bilzerian, a man famous largely for pictures of his guns, cash, and well-endowed lady friends, Instagrammed a video of himself getting cuffed by police outside a squad car on Wednesday. The post, captioned “I might be going away for a while,” quickly racked up well over 150,000 likes — evidence, perhaps, that many of us would indeed like to see less Bilzerian in our lives. Hours later, however, Bilzerian posted a second video, this one of him driving the squad car. (With a bottle of Jack in his hand, naturally.) This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, given Bilzerian’s usual MO, but the whole thing was indeed a self-aggrandizing stunt.
7. ISIS members are not “marking” Christian homes, in Australia or anywhere. One of Australia’s largest police departments was forced to issue a warning late Thursday night over a viral hoax that claimed jihadists were going door-to-door and marking Christian homes. Per the standard text of the hoax, which circulated widely on Facebook and by text, “members of ISIS [are] going door knocking on homes … pretend[ing] they are trying to collect money for orphans.” What they’re actually doing, the hoax claims, is figuring out where Christian families live. Needless to say, the message is fake — but the sentiment behind it is kind of scary. Australia has faced a rising wave of Islamophobia as fears over ISIS and other extremists continue.
8. There is no pumpkin-spice Four Loko. You could be forgiven for falling for this particular Twitter hoax, since virtually every other beverage and snack-food manufacturer seems to have introduced a nasty pumpkin varietal this year. As Gawker confirmed on Thursday, however, the makers of Four Loko — every millennial’s favorite way to get uncomfortably wasted on a budget — have not gotten into that game yet. The image was a Photoshop job circulated by an account called, appropriately, “Things White Folks Like.”
Pumpkin Spice Four Loko pic.twitter.com/GKjOfBJk8i— ThingsWhiteFolksLike (@Things4WhitePpl) September 19, 2014
9. Walkman never promised a free U2 tape with every cassette player. This vintage ad was so good — too good, it turns out — given the ongoing drama over Apple’s forced U2 album giveaway. According to the ad, which made the Facebook and Twitter rounds last week, U2 was involved in such a giveaway before: 20-plus years ago, it claimed, Walkman customers were forcibly given a cassette of the band’s 1983 album, War. As some sharp-eyed social media debunkers quickly pointed out, however, the ad is a Photoshopped copy of a 1986 catalog ad. Gizmodo’s Matt Novak points to Twitter user @JamieDMJ as the fake’s original editor.
Exactly how long have U2 been forcing their music on us for?! pic.twitter.com/qr2dJQ2xjK— JamieDMJ (@JamieDMJ) September 16, 2014
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.