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What was fake on the Internet this week: amazing cows, the KKK and a ‘Secret Sister’ gift exchange

Do you see: (a) a vase; (b) two faces; or (c) some flagrant Photoshopping? (Via Imgur)

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. Anonymous did not “dox” thousands of KKK members. In late October, the hacktivist collective Anonymous promised a data dump like few they’d ever released: the names, phone numbers and e-mails of “up to 1000” Ku Klux Klan members. Since then, however, two distinct dumps have come out — and neither of them have been doxes, in the traditional sense of the term.

As the Intersect’s Abby Ohlheiser has reported in some depth, the first dump, released Nov. 2, contained the names of many people who have no affiliation with the Klan; there’s no clear indication where the data came from, or how (and if) its compilers verified it.

[What happens when an online leak says you’re a Ku Klux Klan member]

A second dump, released Nov. 5, appears to be the “official” release, as Anonymous promised it: But while that list of names and online accounts is both thorough and well-documented, it doesn’t actually appear to “out” the identities of any Klan members who didn’t already advertise their affiliations. In fact, as Abby wrote on Thursday, many of the names on the list are marked as aliases.

[Anonymous’s KKK leak targets the elusive world of white nationalism]

Bottom line? Anonymous did release a pretty impressive map of white supremacy networks online. It’s just doesn’t contain any big revelations — at least that we know of at this time.

2. Steve from “Blue’s Clues” isn’t dead. The Internet just can’t stop killing off 42-year-old Steve Burns, the former host of Nickelodeon’s hit kids show “Blue’s Clues”: Since he left the show in 2001, rumors of his death (from terminal illnesses, heroin overdoses, you name it) have circulated every few months. The latest comes to you from, a fake news site that has no relation to MSNBC. Counter its widely shared story, Burns hasn’t died in a Pennsylvania car crash — though he is (per his aptly named Twitter account, @SteveBurnsAlive), following/lol-ing over the latest rumors of his demise.

3. Three hundred people were not shot in Chicago on Halloween. On Nov. 1, the fake-news site Celebtricity — home of the charming revenge-burger story, c. August 2015 — published a dramatic account of a “Halloween purge” in the Windy City. Per that story, President Obama declared a state of emergency in Chicago after more than 300 people were shot in one night. While Chicago has indeed seen an uptick in gun violence, however, it wasn’t nearly that dramatic: Per the Sun-Times, Halloween weekend saw 28 shootings and two deaths. Just under 150 people have shared that story to Facebook; more than 28,000 have shared the fake, Celebtricity version.

4. $10 will not net you 36 really cool gifts. “Secret Sister,” the latest iteration of ye olde chain letter scheme goes something like this: receive a list of names; send a $10 gift to the first person on the list; add your name to the bottom; send it to six friends. Within two weeks, the thinking goes, you’ll have 36 free gifts on your hands! As Snopes masterfully debunks, however that’s not a guarantee: In fact, it’s literally a gamble. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service classifies chain letters that involve money or gifts as a form of gambling, and thus finds them illegal.

On top of that, as statisticians have observed since the beginning of time/mail, chain letters of any type are mathematically destined to fail. In order for the “Secret Sister” gift exchange to work for two weeks, for instance, every person on earth would have to participate 11 times. Its essentially a pyramid scheme; whatever the promise, don’t buy in.

5. No one found needles in their Halloween candy. This is a (sub)urban legend so well-entrenched that it’s hardly worth debunking it; but this year, as in years past, a number of particularly flagrant hoaxes have found their way onto the Web. In the city of Brainerd, Minn., a Facebook photo of a needle in a fun-size Three Musketeers bar panicked both police and parents; in New Jersey, a 37-year-old posted a similar photo, while in Pennsylvania, a mom mass-e-mailed other parents after her kids said their Twix bars contained sewing needles. All three cases have been disproved, as similar cases have been in the past. There is very little evidence that anyone has distributed poisoned Halloween candy to kids in the United States, in fact.

6. A photo doesn’t show a cow with a famous optical illusion on its face. A very unusual bovine shot to the top of Reddit’s r/pics on Wednesday: Her spots appear to form the shape of the Rubin vase, a famous optical illusion that looks like both a goblet and two profiled faces. Unfortunately, as one Reddit sleuth quickly deduced, the picture is actually Photoshopped: The original, by the Dutch designer and photographer Fleur Suijten, shows much more conventional spots.

Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail — or stay tuned until next week, because surely some more shenanigans will go down in the meantime.

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