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. An Australian health guru didn’t cure her cancer with food. In what is surely the longest-running and most epic hoax of the week, the uber-popular developer and Instagrammer Belle Gibson — whose healthy recipe app, The Whole Pantry, was scheduled to be one of the first to the Apple Watch store — admitted that, contrary to years of blog posts and interviews, she never had terminal brain cancer.
Gibson’s fame relied almost entirely on that narrative; in her book and on the app, she claimed that a healthy, whole-food diet had cured her completely after her 2009 diagnosis. Suspicions arose, however, when Gibson started embellishing the story — saying the cancer had metastasized and throwing fundraisers for organizations who said they never got the money. In an exclusive interview with Australian Women’s Weekly, which came out in print yesterday, Gibson admitted to a “life-long struggle with the truth” and confessed that the whole story was fake.
2. ISIS is not operating a camp miles from the Mexican border. Earlier this month, the conservative blog Judicial Watch — quoting, conveniently, some unnamed “Mexican sources” — claimed that the Islamic State had set up camp eight miles from El Paso in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The story, which managed to name-drop a few other polarizing terms (the Bureau of Land Management, illegal border-crossers), quickly spread to other right-wing sites, including One News Now, American Thinker and the Washington Times.
Both national and local officials have repeatedly said, however, that’s there no evidence of an ISIS camp in Chihuahua. It’s probably worth noting that Judicial Watch was behind a similar ISIS-in-Mexico scare last fall, which Politifact ruled “mostly false.”
3. A joke employment ad didn’t land Bette Davis her role in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.”
An old Hollywood legend rocketed back into the mainstream consciousness this week when it made the front page of Reddit and Imgur on Wednesday. Per that post (and the legend!) Davis placed a tongue-in-cheek work-wanted ad in the Hollywood Reporter, which prompted a casting agent to hire her for the blockbuster title role of Jane. But while Davis did place the ad — it was a commentary on Hollywood’s treatment of aging actresses — it had nothing to do with her spot in “Baby Jane.” That movie (which is, incidentally, also about aging actresses) finished filming before the ad ran, in September 1962.
4. A British couple did not unearth a $90,000 Beanie Baby at a yard sale. This story was basically the stuff of Antiques Roadshow’s greatest dreams: A couple in Cornwall, England, picked up a Princess Diana Beanie Baby for $15, only to learn that the toy was selling for $93,000 on eBay. Unfortunately, this led the couple (and the British tabloids) to conclude that the toy was worth that much, which isn’t the case. eBay sellers regularly inflate their listed prices in order to make things look like they’re worth more than they are, reports the Beanie Baby authority TyCollector.com. This, in turn, drives prices up across the board. But it won’t drive them up that much: TyCollector estimates that the Diana bear is worth $52 tops.
5. No one’s surfing in the Sydney Harbor. A fake video of a surfer in the water outside the Sydney Opera House — first posted online in 2012 after a major storm — has resurfaced on social media again this week in light of some more extreme weather. As Storyful pointed out three years ago, however, portions of the video appear edited, and waves that large couldn’t form in the harbor under any condition.
6. In related Australian weather news: It did not rain so much that a major bridge became a waterfall. Seriously, Australia?! This picture doesn’t look real at all.
— Nick Brierley (@mythsysizer) April 22, 2015
7. Rosie O’Donnell did not get an ISIS tattoo. This story comes courtesy of the conservative parody site People’s Cube, which interrupted its usual reel of Obama gags and faux-socialist propaganda with this fake report on Rosie’s sympathy for the victims of “Western imperialism.” Perhaps because she isn’t Americans’ most beloved former “View” host, or maybe because most people aren’t familiar with the brand of satire on People’s Cube, the story got shared more than 44,000 times within three days.
8. Fox’s “Empire” is not being canceled. As with most TV cancellation hoaxes, this one began with reports on quote-unquote “satire” sites — Huzlers and News Buzz Daily, in this case — before trickling out to the show’s freaked-out Twitter fans. For the record, “Empire” “ain’t cancelled,” but satire is dead.
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.
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