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. Earth will not suffer six days of “total darkness.” Nearly 1 million people have shared the “news,” purportedly confirmed by NASA, that a solar storm will block out the sun from Dec. 16 to 22 this year. The rumor originated on Huzlers, a site that specializes in a particularly humorless form of fake news. It was propagated by people who apparently slept through 10th-grade Earth science.
NASA has confirmed that the Earth will experience 6 days of almost complete darkness and will happen from the dates 16 – 22 in December.— HANNAN DURRANI (@HannanDurrani) October 29, 2014
The Earth will experience 6 days of darkness from Tuesday the 16 – Monday the 22 in December 2014, says NASA— Rudzie (@RudzieRuu) October 26, 2014
Interestingly, Huzlers’s original story on the blackout now automatically redirects to a story about Bill Gates offering Young Thug $9 million to stop making music. For the record, this is also untrue. In fact, I struggle to imagine a world in which Bill Gates knows who Young Thug is.
2. Paul Rudd did not tackle a drunk homophobe at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. But someone who looks like him did! The Rudd-related rumors started Monday, shortly after a video of passengers tackling a belligerent man yelling gay slurs at the Dallas airport went viral. After spotting a man who looked like Rudd in the (admittedly blurry, distant) footage — and reading some tweets that seemed to indicate he might be in the area — the blog Wonkette reported that, yes, the actor and comedian was definitely an airport hero. Alas, his publicist later told the Hollywood Reporter it wasn’t him, and on Twitter a Dallas marketer named Ben Kravit took credit for the save. Wonkette, for its part, blamed the error on “pregnancy brain.”
3. A Chinese woman did not use sex to finance a cross-country road trip. The 19-year-old’s alleged scheme went viral — in China and well outside of it — after major media outlets picked up on a post to the dating app Youjia, which promised sex in return for food and accommodations. As it turns out, however, even Chinese start-ups aren’t immune to the lure of the viral marketing hoax. The woman’s profile, and at least one other, were created by Youjia itself; on Wednesday, Shanghai Daily reported, China’s State Internet Information Office actually ordered the company to shut down over the “fake and unethical” advertising.
4. The National Rifle Association does not advertise on Grindr. In a move that would have defied both politics and common sense, the NRA placed an ad on the gay hook-up app Grindr in support of the socially conservative Senate candidate Tom Cotton … or so the Daily Beast reported Wednesday. In fact, said Andrew Arulanadam, an NRA spokesman, no one affiliated with the gun-rights organization has ever purchased ad space on Grindr. “The was not an NRA ad,” he told The Washington Post. “The ad was doctored and is fake. Period.” The Daily Beast’s source for the story was, notably, a screenshot sent to a reporter — and screenshots are notoriously easy to fake.
5. A no-name boating company did not buy the naming rights to part of the San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Giants fans were apparently outraged by an Oct. 24 news release from a company called Boatbound — “America’s leading peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace”! — that claimed the firm was buying and renaming an inlet near Giants stadium. The inlet, part of the San Francisco Bay, sits just beyond the right wall of AT&T park. It’s also named, informally, after legendary Giants first-baseman Willie McCovey … which explains the outrage. Boatbound, perhaps realizing the error of its ways, admitted the news release was a hoax and promised to make a donation to the Port of San Francisco. But not until the Giants themselves weighed in on Twitter.
The claim that naming rights of McCovey Cove have been sold is a hoax and completely false.— World Champs (@SFGiants) October 24, 2014
It is also completely disrespectful to one of the greatest #SFGiants of all time.— World Champs (@SFGiants) October 24, 2014
6. Judd Nelson is not dead. FoxNews.es — a site that, despite its URL and pretty credible news-writing, is absolutely unaffiliated with the real Fox News — published a “breaking news” report about “The Breakfast Club” actor on Sunday, claiming he was found dead in his Los Angeles condo. In fact, as Nelson’s agent quickly confirmed via Twitter, the actor is alive and well. It less clear how or what FoxNews.es is: There are no other stories on the site, which is registered anonymously. We fault the real Fox News for failing to lock down its Spanish domain name. (It’s not too late, though: The url is, suspiciously!, for sale.)
7. New Jersey did not ban trick-or-treating because of Ebola fears. Rumors of the “Halloween quarantine” originated on the fake-news site Daily Currant (which is, as of this writing, offline) before spreading like hemorrhagic fever across social media. They are, like everything else on Daily Currant, 100-percent fake. That said, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has defended his state’s controversially strict Ebola quarantine policies, and he did in 2012 “reschedule” Halloween because of Hurricane Sandy. So as far as viral faux-news goes, this one’s at least kind of on point.
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.