The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Social Media
Loggers accidentally cut down oldest tree — This week, hundreds of thousands of people shared a story from fake news site World News Daily claiming that loggers had accidentally cut down the world's oldest tree in the Amazon forest. The tree was said to have been a giant Samauma tree over 5,800 years old and 40 meters tall (130 ft). As with everything published by World News Daily, the story was not true. Nevertheless, it certainly sounded plausible to a lot of people who expressed their outrage on social media. World News Daily Facebook outrage Samauma trees (Ceiba pentandra) do grow very large, reaching heights of 200 feet,… Continue…
Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014.   Comments (1)

Terror in Mammoth, Arizona — People in the small town of Mammoth, Arizona were puzzled when, earlier this week, they started to receive calls asking about the outbreak of a deadly, infectious disease — a disease that supposedly caused hemorrhagic bleeding and violent behavior. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary was happening in Mammoth, so why all the calls? It turns out the calls were inspired by a fictional story titled "WTF is going on in Pinal county, Arizona??" posted on the reddit community "No Sleep." The 'No Sleep' subreddit is a place where people share fictional horror stories and then post… Continue…
Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2014.   Comments (1)

Macaulay Culkin not dead — A fake news report recently circulated on social media alleging that former child star Macaulay Culkin, of Home Alone fame, had been found dead in his Manhattan apartment. Cause of death was not described. The fake report originated from the spoof website msnbc.website, which is unaffiliated with the MSNBC news network.
Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2014.   Comments (0)

All ads, all the time — At Web Summit in Dublin, two social-media strategists started pitching a new startup called VelloBook, which they described as the "world's first ad-only social media network. Giving people the power to share ads." They also created a Twitter feed, @VelloBook. But after they started getting a lot of requests for meetings, they realized that they needed to make it clearer that this was a "fake startup" — a joke! I predict that it's a joke that will one day soon become reality. [independent.ie]
Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2014.   Comments (0)


Alex from Target: hoax or the real deal? — "Alex from Target" is the latest instant celebrity of the Internet age. He's a teenager who works at Target in Texas, and his real name is Alex LaBeouf. It's not entirely clear who took his picture as he was bagging groceries at Target, but a week ago a teen girl in London (Twitter user @auscalum) shared his picture on Twitter, captioning it, "YOOOOOOOOOO." Viral fame soon followed, because millions of other teen girls apparently couldn't get enough of how adorable Alex from Target was. But was Alex's cuteness the only reason for his sudden fame? Maybe not. Soon after Alex became… Continue…
Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2014.   Comments (1)

October snow in New Jersey? — An article headlined "Large snowstorm could slam N.J. next week" recently went viral on Facebook, gaining thousands of shares and causing many people to express concern. The post linked to an article on the site of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, which was a legitimate article. But it had been written 18 months ago in March 2013. When the Star Ledger realized that people were mistaking the article for a current weather forecast, they posted an editor's note at the top of it, pointing out that it was an old article. But this made no difference, because people on Facebook were generally… Continue…
Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014.   Comments (0)

Emergent — An article in the NY Times briefly profiles Emergent, a new website created by Craig Silverman which aims to track the dissemination of rumors online. It records how many shares a rumor has received, and also assesses whether the rumor is true, false, or unverified. Looks like a very useful site! The NY Times article notes that the problem with false rumors is that "they're often much more interesting than the truth." Therefore, they get more widely shared. The challenge, says the Times, "is to make the facts as fun to share as the myths they seek to replace." Nice goal, but I don't see it ever happening. The false rumors can endlessly transform themselves to appeal to our deepest hopes and fears. Whereas the facts always have to remain boringly factual.
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2014.   Comments (0)

Fake News Hoax: Zimmerman Arrested in Ferguson — The latest fake news story gone viral on social media is the claim that George Zimmerman (who shot Trayvon Martin back in 2012) was recently arrested in Ferguson after following two black teenagers out of a Dunkin Donuts and then aiming a handgun at them when they confronted him. The story originated with fake news site National Report. It's completely bogus. [hoax-slayer]
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

Facebook debuts satire tag — Facebook is debuting a "satire" tag to identify articles that are intended as parody. Although the tag currently only appears in lists of "Related Articles". So articles from The Onion will now get flagged as satire, as well as articles from some other fake news sites (though Facebook isn't revealing exactly which sites it tags and which it doesn't). Seems like a good idea. Actually, they should have done this a long time ago. Because although one might argue that people should be able to recognize satire on their own, in practice a lot of them don't. [ajc.com]
Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2014.   Comments (2)

Spielberg Slaughters A Triceratops — Last Sunday, Facebook user Jay Branscomb posted a picture of director Steven Spielberg posing with a triceratops, with the comment, "Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man." Of course, triceratops have been extinct for millions of years. Spielberg was posing next to a movie prop from Jurassic Park, not an actual animal. Branscomb intended his post as a joke, alluding to the ongoing brouhaha about Kendall Jones, the 19-year-old cheerleader who likes hunting big… Continue…
Posted: Sat Jul 12, 2014.   Comments (2)

1500 euro to host a Ukrainian girl — Italian social media is all abuzz with the news that the European Commission is offering to pay any EU family 1500 euro a month to host a political refugee from Ukraine — but particularly to host young Ukrainian women "who have always been discriminated against for trivial reasons." In response, many men are taking to Twitter/Facebook and are selflessly offering to host a young Ukrainian woman without receiving any compensation at all! Unfortunately the offer isn't real. The story comes from an Italian fake news site: Giornale del Corriere. [via blog sicilia] Continue…
Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014.   Comments (0)

Tunnel beneath the Strait of Messina (an Italian hoax) — Italian social media was buzzing recently with word of the discovery of a narrow tunnel, over 2000 years old, running beneath the Strait of Messina (the body of water between the mainland of Italy and Sicily). The tunnel was believed to have been built by the Romans during the Punic wars (264-241 BC) as a passageway for troops. It was discovered by workers doing construction on a highway. But the story turns out to have come from an Italian fake news site called Dangerous News. One…
Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2014.   Comments (0)


Dead Dog Hoax — One of the easiest ways to attract attention online is to claim to have done something shocking or disturbing. It's also known as trolling. A case in point is a young woman (using the twitter account @illumivato) who recently claimed that she killed her dog because the British pop group One Direction wouldn't follow her on Twitter. She first sent them a tweet asking them to follow her "or I'll break my dog's neck." Then, when they inevitably ignored her, she followed this up with a…
Posted: Sat Sep 14, 2013.   Comments (0)

The Pirate Bay isn’t moving to North Korea — On Monday, The Pirate Bay issued a press release on its blog announcing that it was moving to North Korea: PRESS RELEASE, NEW PROVIDER FOR TPB FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 3 MARCH 102, 평양 (PYONGYANG). The Pirate Bay has been hunted in many countries around the world. Not for illegal activities but being persecuted for beliefs of freedom of information. Today, a new chapter is written in the history of the movement, as well as the history of the internets... Today we can reveal that we…
Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013.   Comments (0)

104-year-old woman forced to lie about age on Facebook — On the internet nobody knows if you're a dog. And on Facebook, nobody knows if you're really a 104-year-old woman... because Facebook won't accept 104 as a valid age! Woman, 104, forced to lie about age on Facebook dailyherald.com Marguerite Joseph can be forgiven for lying about her age on Facebook. The 104-year-old Michigan woman's granddaughter says Joseph is unable to list her real age on the social media site. Gail Marlow says when she tries inputting her grandmother's birth year…
Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2013.   Comments (3)

Bill Gates Money Giveaway — Below is a picture of Bill Gates that's been circulating on Facebook. Can anyone really believe they'll get $5000 if they share the photo? Or is it being shared as a joke? Since I'm feeling charitable, I'll believe the latter. The picture is a doctored version of a picture posted by Gates during a recent AMA on reddit. Note that in addition to changing the sign he's holding, the reddit toy on the desk behind him has been replaced by what looks like a sex toy. (via David Emery)
Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2013.   Comments (4)

Fake news already spreading about Dorner shootout — Hey, did you hear that Christopher Dorner somehow survived yesterday's shootout? Yeah, apparently the charred remains inside the cabin have been identified as female, not male! No credible news sources are reporting this, but there's a blurry TV screenshot of a CNN newscast circulating on twitter & facebook that says it, so it must be true!
Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013.   Comments (4)

No smoking, drinking, skateboarding, dogs at mall — Ipswich City councillor Andrew Antoniolli posted on facebook that this would be the new sign at the Ipswich Mall — warning people, in a visually economical way, of all the things they couldn't do there. A local radio station believed him, but it was actually just a joke image downloaded from the internet. No idea what the original source of the image was.
Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2013.   Comments (0)

Seriously Richview Collegiate — A picture of a letter detailing a blatantly racist policy supposedly adopted by a Toronto-area high school, Richview Collegiate Institute, was all over Twitter recently. The letter reads: Dear teachers and students, As of late the safety of our students' has been brought into question. Due to a frequent increase in student robberies and fights this letter has been sent out to inform students on safety precautions that are to be taken to protect their well being. Personal belongings are…
Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2013.   Comments (0)

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.