Most people seem to believe that if it’s there in print, it’s probably true. Or maybe gullibility is a case of choosing to believe the most exciting version of a story. Time and time again, internet hoaxes and scams go viral on Facebook and Twitter when millions of people simultaneously forget to check their sources. Indeed very often, people decline to even read the news in question, simply retweeting a sensational headline without even checking whether the ‘news’ is fact or satire.
Venturing into jungles of the World Wide Web you’ll be inundated with stories that seem impossible to believe. And too often, that’s because they’re not. Typically, we’re drawn in by over-the-top headlines; after all, it’s hard not to click on a story that promises superpowers like those you dreamed of having as a child, or a scandalous story about your favourite celebrity’s bedroom habits.
It’s worth exercising some caution before you ‘share’ that next viral story. To avoid falling victim to the trolls in 2015, have a look at these fifteen times the world was tricked in 2014.
15. Smartphones Are Making Restaurant Service Slower
Several major news sources like the Washington Post posted stories about a study showing the wait time at restaurants has gotten significantly longer recently. The reason? The public’s preoccupation with cell phones.
But when you look deeper into the story, you see the only proof of comes from an anonymous Craigslist post, said to be from a Manhattan restaurant. But honestly, it’s Craigslist, so it could have been posted by your cousin in Kansas for all we know.
Craigslist isn’t typically considered the most reliable of journalistic sources. And who really spends more than thirty seconds taking photos of their food? Most of the time, it’s a quick snapshot. Yet, this Craigslist post claimed that people were taking several minutes or more to conduct a photoshoot with their food. One unscientific “study” posted by one alleged restaurant owner doesn’t make it a fact.
Yet, people reacted like this was big news and the story went viral. After all, it gave the world yet another opportunity to complain about Millennials, and everyone loves to do that.
14. Chipotle Uses Dog and Cat Meat
One of the most beloved food chains in America, Chipotle, recently came under fire. An article claimed that the restaurant was under investigation for using cat and dog meat. This story certainly had the sensational factor, especially since many choose Chipotle because they feel it offers a healthier, more natural meal than many other chains.
But had these people looked a little closer, they’d see that the original story was published by Huzlers, a site that claims to be ‘satirical’, publishing fake articles that should never, ever be taken seriously.
Sadly though, most people just read the headlines, panicked and instantly hit share without taking a moment to scrutinize or even question the source. This was just one of many incidents in 2014 that caused many to question these purportedly satirical sites for their morally questionable methods of attracting readers.
13. Recalled Turkeys
Given how easily people share news stories across social media these days, it’s become far too easy to confuse the real news sites with the fake ones. National Report is another ‘satire’ site that seems to confuse people regularly. This year, they pulled a nice prank not only on their readers, but also on the Westboro Baptist Church.
Around Thanksgiving, they posted a story that warned of a possible avian virus that could infect humans. The story included a Turkey Safety Hotline number where people could call and get more information. Unbeknownst to most of their readers, the phone number was actually for the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for picketing funerals with their “God Hates Fags” signs. Commenters who had fallen for the prank complained that the line was always busy, making it hard to get through. The Westboro Baptist folks probably just loved fielding those calls.
12. Animals Fleeing Yellowstone Park, Supervolcano on Verge of Eruption.
As soon as one end-of-the-world prophecy is proven false, another one will crop up shortly thereafter. After Y2K let all the doomsayers down, they turned to other theories like the Mayan “end of the world” prophecies. Recently though, one such theory seemed to be backed up by video evidence…
Animals were seen fleeing Yellowstone Park, the site of a supervolcano that – if it were to erupt – could likely destroy most of America. It all came about after a 4.8 earthquake hit the area on March 30th, 2014. For some, this heralded the apocalypse. A video of the buffalo seemingly running for their lives from the area didn’t help in calming down the Doomsayers.
But the truth is, the video was taken two weeks before the earthquake, and actually shows bison running into the park – not away from it. USGS experts say that, contrary to rumors, the volcano actually isn’t even close to erupting.
11. Death Row Inmate Requests Child For Last Meal, May Get It
The news story looked legit, and many people fell for it, even though the title itself was so outlandish that it should have been an obvious troll. But sometimes, people want to believe the worst about society – especially when it comes to criminals and the justice system.
A story was posted that claimed that a death row inmate from Texas had been convicted of murder and cannibalism, and for his last meal before his execution, he requested a little boy. The story went on to say that the Department of Corrections is required by law to honor an inmate’s last meal request.
The story even went so far as to claim that the Department of Corrections was looking to buy a toddler from a third world country to give to the prisoner for his last meal before sending him into the next life.
It should go without saying that the story is complete and utter nonsense. Not only was the criminal named in the article nonexistent, the photo used was of a random criminal who had been arrested for assault. Of course, even if a prisoner did make such a grisly request, the prison certainly wouldn’t honor it. Meal requests are limited to food that can be prepared on site.
10. Ferguson Photo
One of the biggest American news stories this past year was the Michael Brown grand jury decision and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. With two sides who were both very defensive on the issue, social networks were inundated with posts, pictures, news stories and blog posts about the issue.
One of the images that became popular showed a protester with a sign that read, ridiculously, “No mother should have to fear her son’s life every time he robs a store.”
Of course, this image had been altered; it actually displayed the perfectly reaosnable message “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he leaves home.” The picture was altered and posted to Imgur from a user who admitted he Photoshopped the image to capture his frustration with the entire situation.
9. Ebola Cure
Ebola was dominating the world news in 2014, and with good reason. The deadly virus has ravaged parts of Africa, and led to a worldwide fear of the dangerous disease. And when people freak out over something that seems out of their control, they can be even more prone to believing false information.
In one case, the results of an ebola hoax were potentially fatal. The deadly social media prank reported that by consuming large amounts of salt water, you could prevent yourself from catching Ebola. ABC reported that at least two people who believed the hoax and consumed large amounts of salt water, only to die from the excessive salt consumption.
8. Jews are Required to Register in the Ukraine
People all over the world were appalled when leaflets appeared to have been distributed which stated that Jews in eastern Ukraine were required to register with the government, declare their assets, and pay a small fee or face penalties including loss of citizenship and deportation.
They appeared to be signed by Denis Pushlin, the self-proclaimed leader of the pro-Russian separatist group. The fliers were handed out to people leaving a Jewish center as well as posted at a local synagogue, and evoked terrifying imagery of Nazi Germany for Jews all over the world. While the leaflets were handed out, it appears they were nothing but an elaborate hoax by people either intending to discredit the separatists as being anti-Semitic or to make money by scamming people.
Pushlin maintains that he did not authorize the document, nor sign it, and his seal appears to be nothing more than a poor Photoshop job.
7. Police Have Reopened Kurt Cobain’s Death Investigation
2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Cobain’s death is still a hot topic among fans, so when it was rumored that the Seattle police were reopening the investigation into his death the internet went crazy. After all, there are people out there who insist that the Nirvana frontman was murdered, and that his death was not a suicide.
With the news that the case was being reopened, there was hope that perhaps more information might become available. But alas, that was not the case. It all started when KIRO 7, a local channel in Seattle, stated that police were “reexamining” the case. Perhaps it was a slow news day and they were hoping to lure viewers in with something flashy and intriguing.
The truth was a lot less interesting than all that. A detective found some previously undeveloped photos, which they then developed. But they were only better-quality images of photos they’d already seen. Nothing new came from it. No new developments, no new leads, and any reports suggesting the case was reopened were “very, very incorrect” according to the police spokeswoman.
6. Brothel “Menu” From 1912 Surfaces on the Internet
The internet had a field day when what appeared to be a menu from a 1912 brothel went viral. There was a lot of childish giggling, some blushing and perhaps some frantic Googling to see what they meant by “new style.” While hilarious, yet cringe-worthy, there is absolutely no way this menu is real.
Don’t believe us? Well if you take a look, you’ll see an obvious error; the currency is listed in American dollars, yet the brothel was supposedly located in London where people paid in pounds, shillings and pence. Not only that, the UK didn’t use decimals in currency until the early 1970s. And another telling error is evident if you look close enough – what do they mean “no discount for cash”? Was there any other way to pay?
Further, a linguist looked over the document and noted that most of the words were spelled in American English, and many of the slang terms were more modern and weren’t in use as far back as 1912.
5. Red Bull is Getting Sued For Not Giving People Wings
The Internet loves talking about frivolous lawsuits and about how people win millions of dollars from ridiculous claims. If you look at the facts behind many of these cases though, you’ll see that the stories are often taken out of context.
In at least one such case in 2014, news agencies around the world reported that a man was successfully suing Red Bull for a misleading slogan, saying that their energy drink didn’t give him wings as promised. It seemed like just another case of a justice system rewarding people for their own stupidity.
But the case itself had, in fact, absolutely nothing to do with giving the man wings. The complainant was suing the company claiming that the slogan, along with other claims the company made in advertising stating that the drink could promise higher physical performance, was an outright lie. But of course, that isn’t as interesting as somebody suing Red Bull for not giving him literal wings, so journalists put their own sensational spin on things.
4. Science Finally Catches Up To Harry Potter and Creates Invisibility Cloak
How to make science more interesting to non-science geeks? Bring in pop culture references, of course. Bonus points if the references come from Harry Potter.
In a recent case, several of your Facebook friends probably squealed with joy when news came out about University of Rochester scientists who finally invented a cloak that would allow you to become invisible. It’s the stuff of fiction, and in this case, it’s still very much fictional. At least in the sense you’re thinking.
Journalists hyped up the discovery, likely to make it more interesting to their readers. The truth is that the cloak that’s been discovered is nothing more than a series of lenses that bend light in a way that creates an illusion of invisibility. But there are restrictions, like only creating the illusion at specific angles – meaning the person you’re trying to hide from must stand in one place and not move.
It’s a very cool achievement, and one worth talking about, but by no means will this give you the power to sneak into bank vaults undetected.
3. Macaulay Culkin and Ryan Gosling Vortex of Shirts
It all started innocently enough; Ryan Gosling was just walking around, minding his own business in a t-shirt with Macaulay Culkin‘s photo plastered on the front of it. This is true, as is the next part. Macaulay Culkin then decided to share a photo of himself wearing a photo of Gosling wearing a shirt of him, and well, the internet freaked out a little.
From there, it only seemed logical that Gosling would follow suit and get a shirt with Culkin on it, wearing his shirt with Gosling wearing Culkin’s shirt. A little lost? Can’t say that we blame you, but ultimately, it became this giant vortex of them wearing shirts of the other wearing shirts of the other. And, well, it didn’t happen. Not past Culkin’s first shirt, that is.
The rest are just bad Photoshop jobs done by people who seriously have way too much time on their hands.
2. Facebook Privacy Notice
Remember folks, not everything you read on Facebook is true – even if it’s about Facebook itself.
1. Miracle Machine Turns Water Into Wine
The Miracle Machine was the kitchen appliance dreams are made of, that could turn plain old water into delicious wine in a matter of days. There was even a video of this amazing machine, and word about a potential Kickstarter to help raise money for it. Over 600 publications wrote about this amazing device, and 7,000 people signed up to potentially invest in this product. The problem with it all was, that it was all just a hoax.
Philip James, one of the faux product’s founders, eventually penned a press release explaining that no such product existed, and that the entire story was made up to bring publicity to a charity called “Wine to Water” which brings clean drinking water to places that otherwise wouldn’t have any. While the cause is a noble one, not everyone was pleased about being duped in order to bring awareness to a cause.