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. Costco did not stop selling a dinosaur birthday cake because its legs vaguely look like the numbers “666.” Knowing, perhaps, that controversial cakes are Internet gold these days, a “reporter” at news-aggregation farm the Inquisitr concocted a bizarre story about a “shocked and upset” Arizona mother who demanded Costco stop selling a demonic birthday cake after she ordered one online. The story quickly spread to other news sites, like Raw Story, Independent Review, The Daily Meal and The Frisky.
Alas, the angry mother in question is the author’s girlfriend. And in a series of Facebook comments dug up by Matthew Keys, she indicates not only that she wasn’t offended by the cake, which she and the reporter apparently ate together, but that she doesn’t even believe in the devil. (Also: the Mesa, Ariz. Costco hasn’t gotten any complaints, and they don’t have an online ordering system.)
“I never hoaxed or lied about anything in an article, ever,” the reporter, John Albrecht Jr., later wrote on his own Facebook page. “If there is a lie in any of my articles, the person I quoted is the liar.” (Er, sounds like someone could soon be needing 1-800-Flowers.)
2. Those crazy daisies were not necessarily mutated by the Fukushima nuclear plant. A photo of some very weird looking daisies — taken in May by a Japanese Twitter-user, and recently viral on the English-speaking Internet — probably doesn’t show the effects of nuclear radiation.
While the flowers look unusual, such mutations do occur pretty regularly in nature: It’s a condition called fasciation, and it’s caused by hormonal imbalances, genetics, disease or environmental factors. As the biologist Beth Krizek told the Huffington Post, “I don’t think people should freak out.” Yeah, the flowers are weird — but nothing to tweet about.
3. Minions have absolutely nothing to do with the Nazis. The South American viral Web, which brought you “Charlie Charlie” earlier this year, is back with a new bout of vaguely sinister “polémica” — this round related to the little yellow characters that are suddenly everywhere.
An early 20th-century photo of early British divers, wearing helmets that are kind of minion-like, has been circling the Web for quite some time. But at some point since the release of this latest movie, Venezuela’s El Nacional reports, people began dating the photo to World War II. And that kicked off an incredible string of conspiracy theories: that the photo depicted Jewish children used in Nazi experiments; that Nazi soldiers thought these children spoke amusing gibberish because many weren’t German; that “minion” was actually the word the children used for the Germans.
As the rumors kicked off, one Ecuadorian magazine tweeted: “Did you know that ‘minions’ was the name given to Jewish children who were used by the Nazis for scientific experiments?”
Rest assured, parents: None of this is true. The Spanish blogger Alfred Lopez traces the stories back to Creepypasta, a genre of Internet horror.
4. A black motorcyclist was not run down for stealing a Confederate flag off a truck. In this week’s edition of race-trolling for money/clicks, the fake news site Tmztoday.com (no affiliation to the actual TMZ) published an absurd story about a Georgia man who intentionally ran over a biker after he took a flag off his truck at an intersection.
The story’s transparent aim — to rile openly racist Southern conservatives — seems to have succeeded: Nearly 140,000 people have shared or “liked” it, and there’s a fascinating debate on the merits of “street justice” going down in the comments section. The self-righteous sharers might pipe down a bit if they realized TMZ Today was fake. Or that the pictured “victim” in the story, Rogers Kyaruzi, is a real guy who– if he didn’t write the story — definitely knows the person who did.
5. 1-800-Flowers did not offer a special for cheaters caught up in the Ashley Madison hack. A hilarious “screenshot” from the Web site of retailer 1-800-Flowers, posted to Imgur earlier this week, has been viewed more than 3 million times by people lol-ing at the site’s latest deal.
Alas, 1-800-Flowers offered no such special, as you can probably tell from the slight font differences between “The Ashley Madison” and the other bouquets. If you visited 1800flowers.com at any point this week, you’d see the right-most spot is still occupied by its usual long-stemmed rose bouquet. Boring!
6. This photo does not depict some guy’s Trump-loving dad. It’s Jeffrey R. MacDonald, the former U.S. Army officer convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in the 1970s. This is the second time Donald Trump, or someone working for his campaign, has retweeted a “fan” photo that turns out to be anything but. Last year, the same Twitter troll got Trump to RT an account of John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.
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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