Ready? Here’s what was fake on the Internet this week:
1. All dogs do … not necessarily go to heaven. Cool Pope Francis delighted millions of pet-owning faithful late last month when he allegedly told a little boy that he would be reunited with his dearly departed dog in the afterlife. Alas, in spite of 25,000 celebratory tweets and a studied front page write-up in The New York Times, it would appear the pope said a much vaguer, more mystical thing that doesn’t actually mention pets at all. (“The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.”)
The confusion, the Times later explained, stemmed from a mistranslation of an article in the Italian paper Corriere della Sera and the misattribution of a quote made years ago by another pope. Wishful thinking also doubtlessly had something to do with it: Don’t you wanna see this pup in paradise?
2. A New York high-schooler did not make $72 million trading stocks. Seventeen-year-old Mohammed Islam became something of an Internet celebrity earlier this week when New York magazine profiled the purported “boy genius” and the independent fortune he acquired from trading stocks between classes. Unfortunately, for both New York and the Internet that memed him, the teenager was making the whole thing up.
In follow-up interviews with the New York Observer, the high-schooler admitted to faking his bank statements and lying to a reporter — even having a rich friend drop $400 on caviar to keep the ruse up. This is further proof, perhaps, that the Internet isn’t always to blame for even the most viral hoaxes; you can thank obnoxious high-school kids for that.
3. That viral picture of a child’s bloody shoe is not from Peshawar. In the wake of Tuesday’s horrific terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, mourners around the world have taken to social media to share what has become the iconic image of the tragedy: A photo of a toddler’s shoe, torn and stained with blood. The photo is not, however, from Pakistan; similar images, owned by the photo service Rex, attribute the image to a rocket attack at a mall in Ashkelon, Israel, on May 14, 2008. It’s been surfaced on social media in relation to several attacks since then; a sign, Sarah Kaufman writes at Vocativ, of the image’s “native power” and the fact that “feelings of anger and loss overt[ake] any considerations of sourcing.”
4. An insurance company did not shut off elevators to shame overweight and disabled people. The following image, which has crept up on and off since 2012, is making the rounds again on Facebook this week after an Australian woman posted it with the express hope that it “goes viral.”
“This right here is the PERFECT photo of a health insurance company literally giving a middle finger to the very people they claim to help,” she wrote. “They paid a company to shut off their elevators and display this message for a day.”
According to a spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota, however, the sign has been taken out of context: It was just part of “a 2012 campaign that encouraged those who can to make healthier choices,” which appeared in office buildings in downtown Minneapolis. The elevators were never turned off, and the campaign encouraged other lifestyle changes, as well. Notably, unlike many states’ BCBS plans, Minnesota’s is still a nonprofit. (H/T to reader Kate Rears Burgman, who forwarded this one along!)
5. Burger King is not destroying Canada’s greatest cultural export. Canadians (and upstate New Yorkers, of which I am one) were rightly alarmed by reports that Burger King was taking Timbits off the Tim Horton’s menu. Tim Horton’s, for ye unintiated, is basically a superior, Northern version of Dunkin Donuts (and Canada’s great gift to the world), which Burger King acquired earlier this year; Timbits are its adorable, delicious, and very popular take on the doughnut hole.
Fortunately, for the world/Canada, they’re not actually going anywhere. The story originated on The Lapine, which — while we’re discussing Canadian versions of things — is basically that country’s equivalent of The Onion: equally fake, almost as funny, and just a smidge nicer. What a relief, eh?
Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail email@example.com — or stay tuned until next week, because surely some more shenanigans will go down in the meantime.