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What was fake on the Internet this week: HIV blood in bananas and SeaWorld whales in plastic bags


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. No one is injecting fruit with HIV-positive blood. This particular urban legend is not a new one, but it got a boost again this week on Facebook: Since the beginning of November, hundreds of people have re-shared a long debunked post about “HIV-positive” oranges, and on Nov. 9, a woman named Anna Aquavia kicked off a new scare about some mysterious villain “injecting blood into bananas.”

Let’s take these one at a time: The banana photos were originally posted to Facebook on Nov. 7 by a Colorado mother named Amanda Andrys, who became concerned when she saw the red spots in her son’s fruit. Aquavia — who says Andrys is a friend’s sister — reposted them to her Facebook with the details about the blood.  As Andrys has made very clear on her own page, however, the spotty bananas are just deformed: Del Monte assured her the discoloration was from a natural condition called mokillo, which happens when a common bacteria enters the fruit.

As for the oranges, that rumor started last February, when a woman named Ty Smith claimed that “the immigration services of Algeria” intercepted a batch of Libyan oranges that had been injected with “Hiv & AIDS blood.” For one thing, Libya has exported only a negligible number of oranges since 2007, according to the UN, and those have all gone to Egypt. For another, agricultural inspections wouldn’t be handled by immigration. On top of all that, the HIV virus cannot survive outside the human body. From the Centers for Disease Control:

“You cannot get it from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person; even if the food contained small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus.”

The orange pictured in Smith’s post is a little too blurry to tell, but it’s probable that it was a blood orange, which can have those sort of red splotches.

2. There is no “Tinder for fighting.” The Internet briefly lost its mind this week over an app called Rumblr, which promised to match random strangers for consensual fights. The concept immediately seemed too stupid to be real, which — as it turns out — was right. At 5 p.m. on Monday, the appointed hour for the app to launch, its creators released a statement confirming that they were starting a “consulting agency” and the whole thing was a stunt. Which makes sense, frankly, because had the app launched, they would have set themselves up for a lot of legal action.

3. Aliens did not fly over L.A. last Saturday. On the evening of Nov. 7, hundreds of Californians took to Twitter and YouTube to report seeing strange lights in the sky: The UFO was either a missile or a spacecraft, many concluded, and the end had to be nigh. In fact, the light was a missile, though it was unarmed; a Navy spokesman told the San Diego Union-Tribune that it was fired as part of a routine test of a nearby submarine’s weapons. Such tests are typically classified until they happen, even if they go down near populous places like L.A. And before you cry cover-up, please consider the fact that the Los Angeles International Airport had been advised of the testing well in advance of Saturday.

4. SeaWorld does not put whales in giant plastic bags while it cleans their tanks. But the Onion did fool a lot of people with some Photoshop magic when it posted this photo to Facebook and Twitter Tuesday. (Just this once, we’ll give Onion believers the benefit of the doubt: There’s no story to go with the image, so you could be fooled if you don’t know what The Onion’s about.)

5. The largest waterfall in the world has not dried up. Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is more than a mile long and 300 feet high — which is why it was deeply concerning when Internet rumor-mongers began sharing pictures of the falls “running dry.”

As several local tourism agencies have debunked, however, the photos  actually only show one small section of the falls. That section tends to “come close to drying up” at this time every year, the height of the area’s dry season. When the rainy season begins again in December, that section will once again flow as normal. In the meantime, the rest of the falls still look pretty beautiful.

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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