In the age of social media, various media platforms, and satirical articles becoming the norm, it’s difficult to know where our news comes from, who the original sources are, or if that news is even real. This conversation of “Fake News” was sparked after Donald Trump’s surprising victory as President of the United States of America. Democrats have scrambled to explain the victory as almost every poll ended in favour of competitor, Hillary Clinton. One such explanation was the release of “Fake News” which persuaded public opinion into choosing the latter of the two.
Wherever your political preferences lay, the idea of “Fake News” is a scary reality to face, especially when it comes to politics. But what about the stories that make headlines that are just plain ridiculous? Or funny? Or makes you go “WTF”? Many stories with millions of hits are actually fabricated and, at times, edited for various reasons. Whether that reason is money through click views, to teach the world a lesson about how easy it is to falsify news, or to persuade a country’s election, we have all fallen victim. To better explain what we mean, we’ve constructed a list of 15 fake news stories, which most people thought were real, that reached people all around the world.
15. Shark in the Water!
For most people, fear of the unknown deep blue stems from the unseen creatures living underneath. One such creature to make anyone shake in fear is the great white shark itself. So what if you took a dive into shallow water only to see one of the world’s greatest predators alive sharing the same water as you? Well that is what this Aussie man supposedly experienced when he dived into the Sydney Harbour for a quick swim. The video, which surfaced online in 2014, was posted via YouTube and looked to be filmed from the point of view of the swimmer through a Go-Pro. The video shows the man (unnamed) fighting off a great white, punching its nose, and making a narrow escape to land thereafter. So did this really happen? NOPE. This was a video produced by Melbourne based company, Woolshed Co. in their 8 part segment entitled The Viral Experiment. This video was shared by thousands and hit a whopping 35 million views on YouTube.
14. Donald Trump Wants ANOTHER Wall!
Seeing “Fake News” content surrounding the 2016 U.S. election is no shock, as analysts predict “fake news is more viral than real news.” Many outrageous stories came up surrounding both candidates, but one of the most notable was a story regarding Donald Trump building a wall – not only between Mexico and the United States, but between Canada and the United States as well. Canada, who is rarely seen as an aggressive state and more of a friendly neighbour, is the last place one would think such a rumour to occur – but it did. The original story was a rumour created on twitter in November 2016 which was eventually picked up by small time, click-bait news sources such as the “Liberal Darkness,” which posted this article entitled “Trump calls Canadians ‘Snow Mexicans’, Vows to build wall to keep them ‘in Canada where they belong'”. Yup, that’s what happens when journalists’ research skills can’t surpass Twitter.
13. FBI Investigator Involved in Clinton Investigation Found Dead
Yes, Donald Trump is not the only political victim of off-base, lazy, “scare tactic” stories surrounding the U.S. 2016 election. Presidential runner and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton felt the heat when the story by the Denver Guardian reached millions of hits about an FBI investigator, who was currently investigating Clinton going rogue in the murder-suicide of his wife. The story and website had no sources to back up such claims and fact-checking website, Snopes, disavowed the article and it’s fallacies. The website featuring the story is now shut down after it gained national attention by big time news sources such as the Washington Post.
12. Sarah Palin Bans Muslims From ‘Entering’ Her Daughter
If you’re accusing Sarah Palin of having the most annoying voice in political history, or abusing her for her ability to take a simple sentence and turn it into a full 9-point paragraph, she’s definitely guilty. But to take Sarah Palin’s Republican stance and throw an insinuation that Ms. Palin has banned her daughter from sexually or emotionally seeking a relationship with a Muslim was the handy work of fake news source Nationalreport.net. This story gained 90,000 shares on Facebook, but was an utter fabrication of anything Sarah Palin has said surrounding Muslims. It took the assumption after President-Elect Donald Trump suggested a ban on Muslim immigration during the 2016 U.S.A. election.
11. Bear Chases Girl Down Mountain
This video has been shared thousands of times, and it would come as a shock if it didn’t show up on your social media feed at one time or another. The video, like the one of an Australian man fighting off a great white shark, comes from an Australian company named Woolshed Co. who pulled off the perfect worldwide prank called The Viral Experiment. The video shows a girl, very oblivious, snowboarding on sloops while filming herself on a Go-Pro… the only catch is, after about a minute of filming, a large Grizzly Bear appears on the girl’s camera and begins to chase her down the hill. Again, the female boarder was completely oblivious to the situation at hand, which is why the video was a great hit on YouTube, reaching 9 million plus views. The major give away in this video, even before its rights were claimed by Woolshed Co., was the simple fact Grizzly Bears are so heavy they can’t actually run down a mountain without tumbling over themselves.
10. Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump For President
The fact this story gained over 960,000 views is astonishing, as that means 960, 000 people actually believed the Pope would endorse a U.S. president, period. The Pope’s duties surround the Vatican and the Catholic religion. There is no mandate for them to meddle in or even give an important opinion to an American presidential hopeful. The story itself gained WTOE 5 News thousands of unexpected hits but inevitably turned the news station into a fraud once the story was found fake. However, that didn’t stop some Trump haters from turning on the Pope on Twitter, claiming he was a “traitor” to God.
As stated before, Democrats aren’t the only ones guilty of falling for fake news. During the 2016 election, #pizzagate began trending on social media due to a conspiracy surrounding leaked emails from Hilary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. The emails that leaked had certain “code” words written, so when the internet got hold of such emails suggesting a meet up involving pizza, different conspiracy theories began surfacing. The most prominent theory was with regards to the operation of a child sex trafficking ring involving some elitist politicians and others of influence. Many took to 4Chan and Reddit to share their own theories and some even set up websites dedicated to summarizing the theories created. However, nothing was found – even with police investigation.
8. Woman Defecates on Boss’s Desk After Lottery Win
The title is pretty self explanatory. Woman fulfills her dream of taking a sh*t on her boss’ desk after winning on a 3 million dollar ticket. The woman, unnamed, is quoted saying, “I’ve been putting up with that guy’s sh*t for years, it’s time he put up with some of mine.” So what’s the catch? Well it turns out this woman, a hero to many, is a fictitious character of a satirical article gone wrong. The story first came from The Valley Report by Dave Weasal a comedian who’s made a killing off fake stories. Weasel is responsible for many other internet hoaxes but this is arguably his most successful. Weasel is a Canadian comedian who moved to Los Angeles where he works as an entertainer. Weasel can be found on his popular Twitter account, which has reached 300,000 followers (no thanks to the poop story, we’re sure).
7. You Almost Got Hit By Lightning Babe!
This video, which surfaced in 2016 of an Australian couple taking a stroll in some nasty weather, has now reached 3.5 million views on YouTube. “Almost hit by lightning” videos are a trend on YouTube but this video is distinctly different because of the reaction given by the male filming. The video shows a girl climbing through rocks near the ocean when, all of a sudden, a lightning bolt hits a rock inches away from the girl. At this point, the male filming the encounter, looses his cool and begins to shout inaudibly. What can only be made out as, “Jesus, come back here. Oh my god baby, the bloody lightning bolt just missed you!” The reaction seems so genuine that it’s hard to believe this is another offering from Melbourne based company, Woolshed Co. in their viral experiment. There’s even a video available showing the audition of the actors in the clip for those skeptical that this kind of react could be faked.
6. Obama Bans Pledge of Allegiance in Schools
To our non-American readers, the Pledge of Allegiance is a more than 100 year-old pledge which recites one’s allegiance to their country and is often seen as a display of patriotism. The pledge is recited during many different celebrations, but it is more common to be heard in the classrooms of American schools. All states, excluding Hawaii, Vermont, Wyoming, and Iowa, schedule time to include the pledge in their daily announcements. No student is required to rehearse the pledge, as ruled in the Supreme Court case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. So how does former President Barack Obama tie into all of this? Well, a hoax news story published in December of 2016 claimed Obama signed an executive order which banned the recital of the pledge in American classrooms. The story came from AbcNews.com.co and received over 2 million shares and countless comments and who-knows-how-many views. The website which published the story is a fake news source, hence .co appearing after .com – a big telltale in satirical websites. Fortunately, the matter was discussed on larger media platforms, so not as much damage was done as could have been.
5. Woman Stabs Boyfriend Over Instagram Picture
This story, courtesy of comedic satire writer Dave Weasel and released in August of 2015, gained the attention of millions in 2016 when it became on of the most viral fake news stories. The story was shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram enough times that even fact checker site Snopes.com investigated its validity. The story came from The Valley Report and tells the tale of an emotionally wrecked girlfriend who stabs and ultimately kills her boyfriend for not liking her Instagram post fast enough. The story became an instant meme to be shared on Instagram, but no real truth ended up coming from the story; especially when it was discovered the author of the post was also responsible for the “woman defecates on bosses desk after lottery win” hoax which received 1.7 million shares and comments.
4. Police Find Bodies With Words “Black Lives Matter” Carved Into Victims
The average person isn’t about to make up a satirical article involving the kidnapping and murder of 19 white females with the words “Black Lives Matters” carved on them, but someone definitely did. The article surfaced at the time Black Lives Matters was in the midst of controversies involving police shootings and violent rioting. The story alleged a prominent Black Lives Matter member kidnapping and violating 19 white females in the Los Angeles area. The article, aimed to discredit the movement, was found fake by fact checker website, Snopes. However, the original article received over 500,000 Facebook shares and comments and who knows how many views. The story came from Now8News which has since labelled their sight as “incredibly fictional” in the wake of this story going viral.
3. Donald Trump Offers One-Way Ticket to Mexico or Africa
Tmzhiphop Publications released a satire about Trump Airlines offering free tickets back to Africa and Mexico – for those “unwanted” immigrants, of course. The article apparently didn’t do a good enough job with the satire jab, as it received 800,000 shares and comments and ranks as the third most shared fake political article of 2016. The article claims Donald Trump’s airline was offering one-way tickets to Mexico and Africa and would provide them at no cost at all. That wasn’t enough of a joke, as many were convinced the plot was real. The publication has since taken the article down – after the damage was already caused.
2. Lion Attacks Back!
You don’t have to identify with PETA to want to see some special form of vengeance for trophy hunters. And special form of vengeance is exactly what happens in this video of a blond female posing next to a dead male African lion, when all of a sudden a second male lion appears and lunges after the female. The shot sparked a lot of controversy online, as many began trying to decipher whether the video was fake or not. The topic wasn’t up for debate, however, as the Woolshed Co. soon claimed responsibility for the video. Obviously their The Viral Experiment was a hit, as this video received 10 million views on YouTube and was featured on many mainstream news outlasts such as the Daily Mail and Mirror.
1. Rage Against the Machine to Release Album Against Trump
Last but not least, an article accusing metal band Rage Against the Machine of releasing an album dedicated to defacing Donald Trump received 500,000 shares on Facebook. The article was originally released by heaviermetal.net in an attempt to capitalize on the Donald Trump controversy train. The story basically goes as the title reads: Rage Against The Machine would reunite to produce a record against Trump. There is no truth to the accusation at all. However, the band did predict a Donald Trump presidency in their music video, Sleep With Fire, which was released in 2000. The video showcases a protest, with one man is holding a “Donald Trump For President 2000” sign, clearly predicting a thing or two.