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. Sharks are not swimming down flooded streets in
North South Carolina and Maryland. The shark-in-the-streets hoax circulates after almost every major storm; it’s gotten to the point, in fact, that people aren’t even Photoshopping their own original shark hoaxes anymore. Such was the case in North Myrtle Beach last weekend, when this old doctored image began making the rounds; it was originally trotted out after Hurricanes Irene, when someone pasted the shark from Thomas Peschak’s iconic photo into their snap of the flood:
Okay guys, there's literally a shark swimming on Ocean Boulevard in North Myrtle Beach. This flood ain't playing. pic.twitter.com/kqm11o6g3x
— Krislynne Stowe (@krislynnestowe) October 4, 2015
The post-Joaquin shark hoax that emerged in Ocean City, Md., on the other hand, was at least original: Charlotte Sampson crafted a fake fin and placed it on the pavement outside her house, giving the impression that the water was much deeper than it actually was. Sampson later copped to the joke on Facebook.
For future reference, the shark biologist and conservationist David Shiffman has published an entire guide on how to determine if shark-in-the-street photos are fake. The bottom line? “Just assume” that it is. “To the best of my knowledge,” Shiffman writes, “there has never been a confirmed photo of a shark swimming in city streets following a storm.”
2. Donald Trump’s iconic hats are not made in China. A guy named Alex in New York started a Twitter firestorm on Sunday when he tweeted a picture of his roommate’s “Trump hat.” On the outside, it said “Make America Great Again.” On the inside, the tag read “Made in China.”
So my roommate got one of those trump hats… pic.twitter.com/mTdkMCvvGC
— Alex (@Wonko_the_sane_) October 4, 2015
That would be pretty ironic — even hypocritical! — if the hat was an official campaign product. Alas, it was not: As Alex explained in later tweets, it was an Internet knock-off. Trump’s official store makes it pretty clear that his hats are made in America. (So are The Post’s, FYI, if you wanna try them out.)
3. Pope Francis did not perform an amazing magic trick mid-Mass. Footage of the pontiff doing the “tablecloth trick” is (a) CGI and (b) a joke, as was made very clear when it appeared last week on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” This being the Internet, though, the clip has since migrated, context-less, to YouTube, where hundreds of thousands of people have watched/fallen for it.
This video shows the real footage and the “Ellen” clip side-by-side; reality, predictably, is far less interesting. (Maybe don’t watch if you’re into the whole Francis/Gandalf/Dumbledore meme.)
4. Mourners and witnesses at the scene of the Oregon shooting were not “crisis actors.” Among conspiracy theorists, the specter of the “crisis actor” is particularly compelling: They argue that the same people appear repeatedly at mass shooting events, faking grief for a tragedy that never really happened. (Under this perverse theory of the world, the government orchestrates fake tragedies in order to force greater gun control.) Predictably, in the wake of the school shooting in Roseburg, Ore., last week, theorists came out with fresh “evidence” that crisis actors exist: blurry photos and videos of people whom they claim have appeared at shootings in the past. Here’s a YouTube video, for instance, which has been watched nearly 70,000 times:
And here’s a meme that’s been circulating in different iterations since Sandy Hook, flagged earlier this week by Snopes:
Of course, if you find yourself thinking that none of the women, in either of these “smoking guns,” actually look that much alike, you would be … absolutely right! Snopes has an excellent rundown of the identities of the four distinct women in that “Now Oregon?” photo. (The woman at top center, the sister of Sandy Hook victim Victoria Soto, has actually been victimized by truther trolls before.) As for the YouTube video, the woman from Sandy Hook is visibly older than the one from Oregon. Wake up, sheeple: The crisis actor theory is wrong.
5. Colorado McDonald’s are not introducing “marijuana friendly” smoking pods. This story has been shared more than 50,000 times, despite the fact that it comes from serial hoax site Now8News.com. The image of the pods that appear in the story have been around for several years; an uncropped version of the picture makes it clear that it is (a) not in a McDonald’s and (b) a really bad Photoshop. (Check out the how pod No. 3 attaches to the ceiling, and the identical light patterns on the pods.)
6. A Texas teen did not get pregnant from the flu shot. In a terrifying demonstration of exactly how much modern sex ed has failed us, more than 300,000 people shared this preposterous story from World News Daily Report, which claimed a 14-year-old virgin got pregnant from a flu shot. As we’ve noted many times in this space before, WNDR only publishes hoax articles. But even if this came from a more credible outlet … guys, that’s not how reproduction works.
7. Cheetos would not be “gray” without food coloring. A peculiar post reached the front page of Reddit on Thursday: It linked to a photo on the lifestyle site Popsugar and claimed that “if not for food coloring, Cheetos would be gray.” But that’s kind of misleading, commenters pointed out. For one thing, the photo on Popsugar is just regular Cheetos in monochrome — not Cheetos without food coloring. For another, Cheetos-sans-color would be closer to white or beige than grey: think of the inside of a cheese-puff that only has an orange coating.
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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