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. That viral “drunk girl” video was staged. On Nov. 13, “serial entrepreneur” and viral marketer Stephen Zhang posted a video to his YouTube channel that claimed to show men’s (repulsive!) reactions to a drunk girl tottering around L.A. The four-minute “social experiment,” modeled after Hollaback’s cat-calling video, quickly racked up 7.7 million views — and, to no one’s surprise, a lot of controversy. Amidst the cries of sexism and/or misandry, however, several men in the video took to Facebook and claimed the whole thing had been staged. “It was supposed to be a funny skit,” one man purportedly wrote to Facebook friends. “This is what I get for being agreeable to someone’s project.” Zhang did not return emails from the Post, but as of 7:20 p.m. Thursday night, the video had mysteriously been made private on YouTube.
2. Macaulay Culkin is alive. Everyone’s favorite former child star — besides Mara Wilson, of course — took to social media last Saturday to debunk a memorial Facebook page that claimed he had died. According to the page, Culkin, 34, was found dead at 11 a.m. on Nov. 6 — “he will be missed but not forgotten,” it added, facetiously. In fact, Culkin is alive and well and touring with his absurd pizza-themed band, Pizza Underground. “We’re on tour you silly people,” the band tweeted … which seems fair.
3. There is not a deadly pandemic in Mammoth, Ariz. A horror story posted to Reddit’s /r/nosleep on Monday was scary enough to make it to the site’s front page — and scary enough, apparently, to convince many readers it was real. According to the Arizona Republic, local police and business-owners received dozens of calls from people asking if there was indeed an Ebola-like plague outside of Phoenix, and whether martial law had been enacted because of it. The answers to those questions are, clearly, no and no; /r/nosleep openly identifies itself as a 100% fictional community.
4. Disney isn’t making a movie about openly gay princes. Some 140,000 people have shared the news that Disney’s next animated feature, Princes, will end in a fairy-tale same-sex marriage. Alas, while Princes is a picture book (it’s called “The Princes and the Treasure,” and it’s pretty highly rated), Disney hasn’t bought the rights to it. The story originated, as these things often do, on a fake news site called Amplifying Glass — right next to “Olive Garden’s Never-Ending Pasta Pass Claims First Life.”
5. Chick-Fil-A did not ban the words “bae,” “rachet” and “fleek.” (But wouldn’t it be great if they did?) The list of banned words — which appeared on Reddit last weekend — was purportedly posted by a manager at a Chick-Fil-A who tired of his teen employees’ slang. Alas, as some sharp-eyed Redditors noticed, a near-identical list appeared on the site with a different back story only one day before. The second poster has since deleted his account.
6. A massive British security company did not fire its CEO in a horrifically ungrammatical press release. Some very dedicated hoaxers did, however, duplicate G4S’s site at a fake URL and send an accompanying, equally fake release to journalists. The hoax briefly caused the company’s share price to fall before a spokesman corrected the record.
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.