There is so much fake stuff on the Internet in any given week that we’ve grown tired of debunking it all. Fake Twitter fights. Fake pumpkin-spice products. Amazing viral video? Nope — a Jimmy Kimmel stunt!
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 only people who contracted Ebola in America, as of this writing, are two nurses who treated a Liberian man in Dallas. That is it, full stop, there is no one else. We could devote an entire Friday debunking — nay, an entire series of Friday debunkings — to nothing but the false Ebola rumors flitting around locations as far-flung as Anchorage. Instead, let’s make this brief: Nobody in the United States currently has Ebola, except (a) Nina Pham, who is currently being treated in isolation at the National Institutes of Health and (b) Amber Vinson, who was recently transferred to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.
Yes, some tweeter in Alaska did cleverly Photoshop a page to make it look as though there was an outbreak at an Anchorage High School. And yes, a student in California did cause a brief panic when she claimed to have Ebola symptoms in order to get out of class.
Both of these individuals were lying, however, as was the woman outside of Columbus, Ohio who told police she had symptoms of the disease; the dumb-news site National Report, which claimed a family in Texas had been quarantined; the even dumber-news site Organ Grinder Magazine, which said Bono contracted the disease; and every person claiming marijuana, salt water, vitamin C or other nonsense cures protect against Ebola. In the interests of avoiding further senseless panic, you might want to avoid tweeting rumors like these until they’ve been confirmed by a news outlet you’ve actually heard of before.
2. This is not the Texas nurse’s “Ebola dog.” While we’re on the subject of Ebola, it’s worth pointing out that this widely circulated photo of Nina Pham’s puppy is, in fact, a picture of somebody else’s dog entirely. The puppy’s name is Penny, and her owner, Anna — who posted the image to Instagram 16 months ago — has spent a lot of time decrying her photo’s misuse. The confusion appears to have started on Pham’s (now-deleted) Pinterest account, where she pinned the picture months ago — and where a Daily Mail reporter spotted the image this week. That is, in and of itself, worth pondering further: Should you ever contract a serious disease, you can count on someone from the Daily Mail to scour your long-forgotten pins. Eek.
3. There is not a giant 50-foot crab lurking in a British harbor. A convincing aerial photo of a giant crab hiding in shallow water off the shore of Kent horrified many a gullible social media-surfer this week, both in Britain and much further afield. The panic is overblown, though: Marine biologists say the world’s largest crabs are only about 12-feet wide, and they’d never scuttle into such shallow water. The photo appears to have been edited, perhaps by Quinton Winter — the man who originally posted it to his Web site, “Weird Whitstable.” For what it’s worth, the site also includes “photographic evidence” of giant sea serpents, winged monkeys, and ghosts.
This "Crabzilla" photo of an alleged 50ft crab was taken a few days ago above the waters of Whitstable, England. pic.twitter.com/Y7GZDq5FMx
— Unexplained Pictures (@NotExplained) October 15, 2014
4. An Italian teenager did not get run over by a train for a YouTube stunt. A short video of a teenage boy laying down between train tracks and letting a passenger train speed over him promptly went viral this week, and for good reason: It’s a stupid, death-defying dare. It also never actually happened, according to analysis by Britain’s Daily Mirror. The paper concluded the would-be daredevil spliced together footage to fake the stunt — unlike idiots like this guy, who have attempted videos like this before.
5. Halloween does not fall on Friday the 13th this year. For one thing, Oct. 13 already passed. For another thing, there is no Friday the 13th this month. And to top things off, Halloween didn’t even exist as such until the 19th century. Alas, none of these facts have prevented Facebook users from reposting this meme nearly 90,000 times. (“Any one else smell [nonsense] with this post?” one user asked. Yep — the stench of nonsense is pretty strong, actually.)
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.