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. A 600-pound Australian woman did not give birth to a 40-pound baby. In fact, the world’s heaviest babies to date, per the Guinness Book of World Records, weighed 22 pounds 8 ounces and 22 pounds, respectively — so how anyone believed Australia just obliterated that record is, frankly, beyond me. (We’ll blame it on some weird combination of obstetrical ignorance and tabloid gawking.)
This non-story appeared on fake-news site World News Daily Report and credited a report in the “Western Australian Herald,” which hasn’t existed since the 19th century. World News is, of course, a member of the class of sites that Facebook just promised to crack down on — but not soon enough, apparently. The story’s seen more than 349,000 Facebook shares since Jan. 14. Better luck next week!
2. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not beaten nearly to death in jail. While we’re on the topic of fake news, this gem — shared a quarter of a million times, as of this writing — came from Empire News. If the weird references to banana peels and white supremacists didn’t tip you off, yet another reminder: EMPIRE NEWS = FAKE. ALWAYS.
3. NASA didn’t cut a live video stream from the International Space Station to hide a UFO. A minute-long video cropped from NASA’s ISS livestream, in which literally nothing happens, has been watched nearly 1 million times in the past week — apparently because the tinhats of YouTube find something suspect in it. Per the clip’s uploader, one Streetcap1, the tiny gray speck over Earth’s horizon is an alien spacecraft (not the moon, as it appears to be) and the feed cuts out because NASA is hiding something (not because these types of errors happen with some frequency).
As Snopes has reported already, however, NASA’s camera equipment is notoriously glitchy, and the moon often appears odd in space. It’s also worth pointing out that ufologists have themselves declared Streetcap1’s channel a fake — several have accused him of hyping obvious non-UFOs for personal gain.
4. Thousands of pages of new UFO documents were not just released online. Big news week for UFOs, huh? If you spent any time with a newspaper or cable news channel this week, you may have spotted headlines like these: “Air Force UFO Files Hit the Web,” “U.S. Air Force Releases Thousands of Pages of Declassified UFO files,” “Two decades of mysterious Air Force UFO files now available online.” (That last one’s from The Post. We are not immune!) But while the coverage of the Air Force’s “Project Blue Book” — a government investigation into UFOs — suggested that the files had been newly declassified and digitized, they’ve actually been online for years … and they’ve been declassified way longer than that, available for public perusal at the National Archives.
A spokesman for Fold3, an Ancestry.com subsidiary and one of several sites hosting the Blue Book files, confirmed to The Post that they’ve had the full document available online for free since 2007. It would appear that the misinformation springs from a site called the the Black Vault, which republished the files last week. As to the motives behind that site’s self-aggrandizing, well … we leave that to the conspiracy theorists among you. (H/T to reader Shepherd Johnson for sending this one in.)
5. This is not an early ad for Facebook. We’re not convinced that many people fell for this (very funny, very unsubtle) YouTube sketch, which claims to be a TV ad for “The Facebook,” c.1995. Alas, this being YouTube — and the video bearing no “parody” disclaimers — it would appear a few people did: “Is this real?” asked some much-berated people in the comments section. For the record, Facebook was founded in 2004 — and Zuckerberg was 11 in 1995. I know these tech whizzes keep getting younger, but 11 seems to be pushing it.
6. Willow Smith did not post a topless photo to Instagram. I’m not sure how there’s any confusion here, but the 14-year-old quantum physicist/famous daughter is very clearly clothed. (Also, as we’ve discussed before, Instagram’s pretty aggressive in enforcing the no-shirt, no-service rule.)
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.