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!
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. Casey Anthony was not found dead in northeastern Ohio. In case you needed further evidence that viral fake news is often little more than evidence of public hostility, observe this (pretty graphic/horrifying) story from Now8News: According to it, Anthony — the “most hated woman in America” — was found dead and dismembered outside Warren, Ohio, in a manner much like the one that killed her daughter. Nearly 100,000 people have shared the story on Facebook, often with comments like “one can only hope!” They’re hoping in vain, though: Now8News is a hoax site, one of the Internet’s more stubborn scourges, and news reports suggest Anthony still lives in Florida.
2. Chipotle did not run a tasteless 9/11 ad. Dozens of angry tweeters are boycotting Chipotle this week after seeing an ad the chain allegedly ran in a Costco magazine. The image shows two foil-wrapped burritos, a tinfoil plane, and the text “Never Forget” … which is truly, offensively terrible! But also not legit.
— Jay Nishimura (@KingJayDuck) September 20, 2015
The tip-off is that white border around the ad — see it? This is a style called “no bleed printing,” and it’s what you get from a desktop printer. Magazines, on the other hand, design for full bleed, meaning the ink reaches the edge of the paper. In other words, whoever took this photo printed the “ad” off Imgur (where it’s been circling in obscurity for years) and stuck it inside a magazine to make it look like it ran there. If you actually go through back issues of Costco magazine, you’ll have a hard time finding the ad. Chipotle said it’s investigating who’s behind it.
3. Selfies are not killing more people than sharks. As I wrote at some length on Tuesday, this meme’s gotten way more attention than it should — it grossly misconstrues and conflates statistics to make selfies seem dangerous. You can’t actually compare selfie-deaths to shark attacks: a shark is an actual mode of injury, and a selfie’s just a precipitating thing. Also selfie-related deaths are just a phone-related deaths. Why zero in on the activity?
4. Empire’s Bryshere Y. Gray is not Jay-Z’s son. (Although that would be cool, given the Y/Z thing they have going on.) “News” of the DNA test was broken by the hoax celeb gossip site Celebtricity and has been shared more than 200,000 times. Pro tip: If a crazy story mimics the plot of a hit show and appears between ads for “booty implants” and “tricks to cure ED,” you might wanna approach it cautiously.
5. A shark (probably) did not photobomb an Australian man. A Sydney fitness coach terrified local beach-goers last week with an alarming Instagram: It shows two guys swimming near a shark net — with a shark looming just behind them. Almost as soon as the photo went up, however, skeptics claimed it was fake. A photographer for Australia’s Fairfax Media group claimed the lighting on the shark seemed off; a Redditor insisted the exact same animal appeared last year in a National Geographic shot. On top of that, local officials say there have been no shark sightings in the area for several weeks, and lifeguards at the beach also believed it to be fake.
That said, there’s no way to tell for sure that a picture has been Photoshopped without the original files, and the Instagrammer has insisted his image is legit. He hasn’t turned the files over to his doubters, however. Until he does, we’re siding with the skeptics.
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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