Ready? Here’s what was fake on the Internet this week:
1. A U.S. drone did not capture footage of an Islamic State militant having sex with a donkey. (Or a goat. Take your pick.) The alleged footage from Syria, which cropped up on LiveLeak before making the rounds on Reddit, does indeed appear to show some unsavory activity between a man and a highly pixelated animal. But the date stamp on the video is from 2011, and the time zone corresponds to Kabul — not Syria. As Adam Weinstein writes at Gawker, this sort of propagandizing is neither unusual nor new: stuff that “dehumanizes your adversary as bestial,” he writes, “is highly shareable on social media.”
2. A historian did not discover a new text on the miracles of Jesus. Nearly 200,000 people have shared this whopper from faux-news peddlers World News Daily Report, the same people who — just this week! — brought you stories on the discovery of an “ape man creature” and El Dorado. Per the so-called satirists, an Italian historian discovered the parchment, Dan Brown-style, in the archives of the Vatican. It purportedly contained a first-person account of Jesus resuscitating a stillborn child. Needless to say, if such a text were indeed found, it would merit mention outside of the “semi-real or mostly fictitious” media — in 2,000 years of Biblical scholarship, no one has found a eyewitness account of Jesus’s work. WWJD, World News Daily Report? (Answer: Not make up fake news.)
3. Ebola zombies are not “rising from the dead.” In a story that should have strained the credulity of even the most gullible “Walking Dead”-watcher, the troll-y right-wing news hoaxers Big American News claimed, over the course of multiple articles (!), that Ebola is actually an American bioweapon that raises its victims from the dead. Well over half a million people have shared the stories on Facebook, apparently failing to realize that (a) this is not possible, (b) the “confirmed” photo of the Ebola zombie is from the movie “World War Z,” and (c) that a site with headlines like “Obama is infecting Christmas with Ebola to destroy Jesus and start a new age of liberal darkness” isn’t exactly trustworthy.
4. Someone did not vandalize a $2.5-million Bugatti by spray-painting male genitalia on it. But an image that seemed to show the luxury car, complete with a large red penis on its hood, spread like wildfire on Reddit — where readers alternately pitied, and lol-ed at, the owner of the car. Said owner is, in fact, in on the prank: It’s the work of a YouTube comedy group, and they did it for an upcoming video. They’re also very pleased with all the attention.
5. No one has Ebola in Kansas City. Ebola rumors are arguably more contagious than the disease itself, which perhaps explains how one local blog in Kansas City managed to spark an Internet-wide panic. Tony Botello, of the aptly named TonysKansasCity.com, reported on Saturday that an infected patient had been quarantined in the city’s Research Medical Center … complete with multiple exclamation points, an all-caps headline, and a picture of a fiery mushroom cloud. Despite the fact that none of these things convey serious reportage, the report spread quickly on Twitter and ended up in Breitbart, among several other sites. Kansas City officials have since clarified that while they did see a feverish patient from Nigeria, he had no other Ebola symptoms, and the disease has been conclusively ruled out. They’re also reportedly looking into how the rumors spread.
6. A 12-year-old Norwegian girl is not marrying a 37-year-old man. The wedding blog of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Thea — which chronicles her preparations to marry a man 25 years her senior — quickly became the most-read blog in Norway this week, as 2 million people tweeted their horror at the site and called into Norway’s child services to stop the wedding. They needn’t have panicked over Thea: The whole thing’s a stunt for Plan Norway, a children’s rights advocacy group. But they should still probably panic about child marriages, the issue Plan Norway sought to draw attention to: Per that group, 39,000 underaged girls are forced into marriage every day.
7. Rihanna is (probably) not back on Instagram. Fans rejoiced over rumors that the singer was back on IG after departing on rather scandalous terms five months ago. But alas, if @Bahdgalriri is Rihanna’s new Instagram account, it’s … not a very good one. The account has only re-posted pictures that appeared elsewhere on social media first, whether on Rihanna’s (verified) Twitter, or those of her friends and management.
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.