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. Caitlyn Jenner did not beat an amputee veteran or a college brain cancer victim to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Sports fans were outraged — OUTRAGED, I tell you — to learn that ESPN would give its annual ESPY courage award to Jenner, leaving veteran Noah Galloway and college basketball player Lauren Hill as measly runners-up. Except … that’s not how the ESPYs work. There literally are no “losers” or “contenders” or “runners-up,” as ESPN has explained in several statements. Instead, the committee selects one semi-arbitrary person to honor each year, according to its own judgment. If you don’t like it, Nick Martin sums up, don’t watch ESPN — but also don’t mourn Galloway or Hill’s “defeat,” as that isn’t what happened.
2. There is not really a campaign to revoke Caitlyn Jenner’s Olympic medals. A Change.org petition to that effect — now boasting 14,000 signatures — traces its origins to 4chan, where it was engineered by pranksters.
3. Holding a Coke with your boobs does literally nothing for charity. For the past week, some ladies on Facebook and Instagram have done a rather peculiar thing: posted pictures of themselves topless with cans of Coke, presumably to raise cancer research money. While some viewers may hypothetically have donated, though, that was never the actual purpose of the stunt: Instead, it was “a joke … making fun of all these other challenges,” created by a porn talent scout. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation has also said it won’t accept any donations that result from the campaign — but you can keep your clothes on and donate, anyway.
4. Queen Elizabeth is not dying/dead. On June 3, a BBC reporter tweeted a pretty stunning scoop: The 89-year-old Queen of England, she wrote, was being treated at a private hospital — a bit of panic that was quickly repeated by many as real news. Fortunately for the Queen, it appears the tweet was sent in error: the BBC reporter, Ahmen Khawaja, since deleted it and claimed it was a “silly prank” by someone else who used her phone. The BBC, meanwhile, has claimed the tweet was sent inadvertently as part of routine internal training intended to prep reporters for the Queen’s eventual death. What actually happened? No one knows — but the Queen is in good health.
5. Ted Cruz did not call President Obama the “n-word.” A 10-second audio recording posted to YouTube and allegedly taken at a San Antonio fundraiser claims to catch candidate Ted Cruz making a racist slur about the president. There’s already room for skepticism here: like, the fact that everyone’s talking about Cruz’s other gaffe, and the fact that Cruz’s face, or other evidence that it’s him, never actually appears. That’s because the video is a production of The Stately Harold, a so-called satire site: “None of the stories have a grain of truth to them,” a disclaimer advises.
6. This gross video does not show a spider crawling out of some guy’s ear. A “disturbing” video posted to YouTube over the weekend has already racked up 1.7 million views — perhaps because it’s the kind of footage from which nightmares are induced. The 14-second video shows a spider crawling out of — and then back into — a man’s ear canal. To our relief, the man in question is Bruce Branit, a visual effects artist who’s done work for “Lost” and “Breaking Bad,” among other things; the spider was also an effect added in post-processing.
“Of all the things I’ve done,” he wrote on Facebook, “This is what I’m gonna be known for???!!!!” It’s looking like that more and more…
7. This “epic promposal fail” was neither a promposal nor a fail. New Jersey high-schooler Patrick Smith enjoyed a few hours of notoriety on Monday when a video of his public rejection at a school track meet went viral on Twitter. “Is there any way you would like to come to prom with me?” he asks a track teammate, speaking to a microphone in front of 2,000 people. “I already have a date,” the teammate answers.
Far from a humiliating rejection, however, Smith told New Jersey’s Pix 11 News that the exchange was planned; he’s now enjoying the outcry on Twitter, where he’s changed his bio to “rejection famous.” We can only hope this is the last we’ve heard of the promposal trend.
8. Zayn Malik is not returning to One Direction. The hashtag #WelcomeBackTo1DZayn trended worldwide on Twitter Monday morning, raising the hopes of many a hysterical teen who has missed Malik since he left the boy band in March. Alas, like many of the dozens of One Direction hashtags that trend every week, this one was powered not by actual news, but by the whims of Twitter’s (powerful!!) teen community. The first person to tweet on the #WelcomeBack hashtag was a fan in Brazil: “I didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t kill or anything,” she wrote, in response to the ensuing vitriol.
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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