Ready? Here’s what was fake on the Internet this week:
1. Michael Brown’s mother did not condone the Ferguson police shooting. A bizarre and barely legible screenshot, purportedly from Lesley McSpadden’s Facebook page, made the Facebook and Twitter rounds after appearing on the conservative blog The BlackSphere this week. Per that screenshot, McSpadden wrote “F*** THEM 2 COPS,” of the officers who were shot, and “GOT NO SYMPATHY FOR THEM OR THEY FAMILIES … If my FAM woulda got JUSTICE in August maybe those two cops would’ve have got shot.” Screenshots from a Twitter account also credited to Brown’s mother tweeted similar messages.
The problem, of course, is that Brown’s mother’s name is spelled Lesley, not Leslie — and though both accounts have since been deleted, both are demonstrably not hers. Instead, cached photos from the accounts and public records show that both belonged to a young man who claims to be Brown’s uncle. Leslie is a common name for men in the McSpadden family. The Post has reached out to him to confirm his relationship to Brown and explain the tweets. For what’s it worth, he claimed in one message, posted on March 12, to have been hacked. In either case, Brown’s mother wasn’t involved.
2. There’s no scientific evidence that smartwatches cause cancer. My colleague Rachel Feltman has already debunked this doozy of a New York Times column at very intelligent and funny length, so I urge you to read her full post here. But suffice it to say, the “expert” who claimed that smartwatches are as dangerous as cigarettes is actually … kind of a quack.
3. The movie “Unfriended” is not based on a true story. That should be fairly obvious (?), given that its supernatural plot revolves around a dead high-schooler, “Laura Barns,” who haunts her cyberbullies. But someone — presumably a member of the film’s marketing team — has created pretty realistic-looking Facebook and Twitter accounts for Barns, even inviting followers to a (fake) memorial service at a (nonexistent) church.
As if that wasn’t tasteless enough already, given the very real issues surrounding teen suicide and cyberbullying, identical clips posted to YouTube, Facebook and LiveLeak claim to show Barn’s death. The woman pictured in the photos on these accounts, of course, is actress Heather Sossaman, and the “suicide” footage appears in the official trailer for the film. There has never been an obituary or news account published about a Laura Barns who fits the description portrayed in the film — but that hasn’t stopped lots of Quora and Twitter users from falling for it.
4. Singapore’s former prime minister isn’t dead. Good news, readers: Stupid fake news is not limited to the Western world! On March 17, a fake government Web site that appeared to belong to the PM’s office claimed that longtime former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who’s 91, had died. Screenshots of the Web site took off on social media, inspiring several foreign outlets — including CNN (!!) — to likewise report the news as true. CNN later retracted its story, and the real prime minister’s office announced that it planned to file charges against the owner of the fake site. “We advise the public not to spread falsehoods,” Singapore police said — words of wisdom for everyone. (Incidentally, this paragraph originally said Lee Kuan Yew was the former PM of Malaysia, so I just broke that rule myself. Many apologies, and thanks to Michael Orr for catching my error.)
5. Weirdos at SXSW did not stage a protest against “robots.” A bizarre and buzzy spectacle went down at the SXSW Interactive festival last week, where a gaggle of blue-shirted protesters paraded around with signs like “humans are the future” and “robots don’t care.” Despite the skepticism of several tech reporters — who noted, rightly, that robots are a pretty random thing to oppose, at this rudimentary stage of the game — the group’s charismatic leader, “Adam Mason,” repeatedly insisted that they were legit. Mason is a liar, alas. In fact, Mason isn’t even his real name. Adam Williams is actually an engineer for a dating app called Quiver, and “Stop the Robots” was a marketing stunt contrived for his company. We will not explain the thematic connection between the app and the protest, because that’s just giving Quiver the publicity it craves.
6. The grandson of Sony chief executive Kaz Hirai did not deep fry a gun. (Honestly, where do rumors like this even come from?) A photo of a stone-faced 13-year-old boy holding a deep-fried pistol has made impressive inroads on Twitter, where it’s been retweeted more than 5,000 times. Though the photo may be real, the kid pictured in it has no ties to the 54-year-old chief executive of a major multinational. Hirai’s two children are both college-aged — too young to have parented a 13-year-old.
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.
Liked that? Try these: