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. Golden Girls’ Rue McClanahan did not die this week. It would be impossible for her to do so, in fact, because she died in 2010! Nevertheless, belated “RIP Rue” messages made the Facebook and Twitter rounds yesterday — just as they did at this time in 2014. Once again, the recurring mass lunacy/amnesia seems to spring from the fact that no one actually reads articles online. Pro tip: Check the date on that obituary before you tweet next time.
2. Obama is not passing “slavery reparations.” An alarmist article from the right-wing clickbait farm American News — shared, as of this writing, nearly 90,000 times — warned God-fearing, gullible readers that Obama would begin “forcing” them to pay slavery reparations last April. Through some Facebook black magic, the story began going around again this week, although it remains just as unsubstantiated as it was two months ago. The story references, for instance, a “recent report from Fox Business News” which “confirm[s] speculation that a policy like this has been in the works for years.”
The only problem with all that? The Fox Business News segment WAS speculation. It was openly, transparently hypothetical, and Fox never claimed otherwise — the segment in question was commentary, not reporting. There is no actual evidence that reparations are coming. (Or that they’d merit this type of fury/outrage/panic, even if they were.)
3. Sketchy FBI-linked company FVX Research seriously does not exist. Last week, AP broke the story of a covert FBI surveillance program that hid behind a series of fake shell companies. But mysteriously, the day the story broke, a Web page popped up for one of the firms — and sparked a million frenzied conspiracy theories. FVX Research had an “About” page! A Twitter account! A page of attractive executives! If the company were fake, Reddit theorists demanded, how could all those things possibly exist? (Really easily, it turns out: The pseudonymous creator of the Web site wrote on Motherboard that the site came from a template, and set-up took less than an hour.)
“It just goes to show how many people want to believe and are easily manipulated into believing without doing proper investigative research,” he told the New York Daily News. “I mean, come on, all one had to do was look up the registry date to know it was a newly registered site.”
4. An 18-year-old Virginia girl is not actually the most stunningly gifted math student in the world. Kim Jung-yoon, a South Korean student who attends Alexandria’s elite Thomas Jefferson High School, made headlines across her home country last week after claiming not only that she had gotten into both Harvard and Stanford, but also that the schools had invented a special shared program for her. (Kim also claimed in interviews that she had personally spoken with Mark Zuckerberg, who asked her to work for Facebook.)
Harvard and Stanford have since said in statements, however, that such a program does not exist. They’ve also denied sending Kim’s published acceptance letters, which contain unlikely (and awkwardly worded) lines like this: “Out of all the exemplary students who applied to Harvard University … it has come to my attention that you are even more special.” According to the Korea Times, Kim’s father has since said his daughter is mentally ill.
5. President Obama isn’t holding cigarettes in that viral Instagram picture. At least, the White House press secretary repeatedly denied that interpretation of a distant, and less-than-clear, Instagram photo. The picture of Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was taken at the G-7 summit by Renzi’s spokesman. Obama reportedly quit smoking several years ago; it doesn’t appear that Renzi is a smoker, either.
6. Once again: Steven Spielberg did not poach a “defenseless” dinosaur. You may remember this photo from last June, when 6,000 Facebook commenters worked themselves into a frenzy over a picture of Spielberg on the set of “Jurassic Park.” Now, as then, the outrage is funny because dinosaurs are … EXTINCT! But this time the dino drama is extra-interesting, as it was author Joyce Carol Oates who sent the opening tweet. (Oates later told Newsweek that the tweet was made in jest; no explanation yet on some of her zanier Twitter material.)
7. National Best Friend Day is not a real thing. For more details on how the marketing stunt morphed into a full-fledged, Google-official “holiday,” see this lengthy debunking.
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.
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