Ready? Here’s what was fake on the Internet this week:
1. Posting a “copyright notice” to Facebook does absolutely nothing. In the latest episode of a chronic hoax that has flared four times (!) in the past three years, untold thousands of Facebook users shared a block of bogus legalese that, they believe, will protect their rights to material they post on the site. The text itself is gibberish — it refers to laws that don’t even exist — and the rights protections it mentions aren’t an issue, either. (Per Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes: “When you post things to Facebook, we do not own them.”) In fact, the whole thing seems to spring from the fact that people don’t understand, and thus fear, exactly how Facebook works.
2. Banksy did not draw a tribute to Charlie Hebdo. A moving illustration of three broken pencils made the social media rounds early Thursday morning after an account attributed to graffiti artist Banksy posted it to Instagram — and Mashable, in a viral post, reported it as fact. The problem, of course, is that Banksy famously has no verified accounts on any social network, and no one has any idea if the artist is actually behind this Instagram account. In either case, Banksy didn’t draw the broken pencils: That illustration was the work of British artist Lucille Clerc, whom @Banksy — whoever he or she is — credited long after the fact.
3. Teens know who Paul McCartney is. (Lots of teens, anyway.) In the wake of a surprise collaboration between Kanye West and former Beatle Paul McCartney, teenage Kanye fans took to Twitter to do what teens do best: provoke people their parents’ age — in this case, by feigning not to know who Paul McCartney is. Dozens of media outlets aggregated and tut-tutted the whippersnappers’ ignorance, and hundreds of angry Beatles fans attempted interventions. Here’s the thing, though, angry Beatles fans: The kids are playing you. A fair few of them, at least. Said 18-year-old David Lofgren, one of the foremost of the shamed teens, “a LOT OF people just didn’t get it.” Also: Learn to take a joke, please.
4. ISIS does not have Ebola. Online media were all too eager to repeat vague rumors from an Iraqi government newspaper that claimed some ISIS fighters had contracted the deadly disease. As it turns out, however, the state-run media arms of embattled foreign governments do *not* the best sources make! In a statement released Jan. 6, the World Health Organization confirmed that there are no cases anywhere in Iraq and that claims otherwise were just rumors. The story had already been shared some 60,000 times on social media; it was after all, as one commenter put it, an “old-white-people-fear mash-up” for the record books.
5. Ricky Martin is not dead. A YouTube video by the account “Shocking and Upcoming” — which I think should have exposed the gag right away — published a graphic video last weekend that claimed that graying pop start Ricky Martin had been thrown from his car in L.A. It’s unclear where the footage is actually from, but it definitely doesn’t show Martin. On Sunday he tweeted, jokingly:
6. Also not dead: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. As far as celebrity death hoaxes go, this one is a little less sexy than Ricky Martin — but it also (briefly!) affected the world economy. Oil prices surged on Jan. 7 after a fake account for Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Saud al Faisal, tweeted that the king had died. The account has since disappeared from Twitter. Some suspect the Italian prankster Tomasso De Benedetti — who has also made false accounts for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and former Italian president Mario Monti — is behind the stunt.
7. The FBI did not raid a “pig brothel” in Missouri. More than 54,000 people have shared this ridiculous story from World News Daily Report, which — despite its shiny, semi-legit looking redesign — is still totally fake. We’d be inclined to blame run-of-the-mill stereotypes for readers’ unflagging gullibility, an “oh-look-at-those-hillbillies”-type thing. But Missouri’s own Riverfront Times suggests another, darker explanation: Until 2002, the state did actually allow bestiality. Eek.
Related, while we’re on the unfortunate subjects of animal cruelty and World News Daily Report: A “little old lady” was also not arrested for making fur coats from her neighbor’s cats.
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.