Fake news is a searingly hot topic right now. Some label it propaganda, others prefer to simply term the phenomenon “lies”, but whatever your perspective, there’s no denying that some of the content coming out of the #fakenews rumour mill is downright laughable.
The questionable media trend may be affecting everything from politics to social perception, but sometimes fake news veers so far away from reality that it becomes just plain ridiculous. Here are 10 of the most preposterous fake news stories we’ve come across in the last six months of this post-truth era. Do you have any to add to the list?
1. Planet Nibiru is headed straight for Earth
Sound the alarms and start digging your bunkers, everybody, because Planet Nibiru (also known as Planet X and Planet Nine) was claimed to be on a direct collision course with Earth all the way back in March 2016. And it must be true because NASA said so – apparently.
Except they didn’t and it isn’t. In fact there isn’t even conclusive proof that a “ninth planet” exists (forget about Pluto, it’s a dwarf planet – okay?). Let alone that it’s poised to smash Earth into smithereens or spitefully bast us with great big asteroids from across the solar system, so you can stop frantically stockpiling the tin of beans – unless you buy News4’s hype.
2. Hillary Clinton believes in the “Nibiru apocalypse”
A WikiLeak’s hack of former US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s emails triggered some pretty hysterical fake news stories back in October 2016, including the “fact” that Ms Clinton herself believed in the imminent “Planet X apocalypse”. You don’t have to be a NASA rocket scientist to know that’s total bunkum.
3. Pope Francis endorsed President Trump
The 2016 US Presidential election was a hotbed of fake news, slamming and glorifying both contentious candidates. During the race, the (now defunct) fake news website WTOE News published a report that Pope Francis had broken with centuries of papal tradition and endorsed a US Presidential candidate – Mr Donald Trump.
Of course the Holy See said no such thing. After the fake news report went viral, reputable news source Reuters reported the Pope as saying: “I never say a word about electoral campaigns“.
4. Lottery-winning woman arrested for relieving herself on her boss’s desk
After fake news site The Valley Report claimed a 41 year old woman had been arrested for defecating on her boss’s desk after winning the lottery, the story went viral, spawning millions of shares on social media and lots of coverage from other, gullible news outlets. The whole thing, of course, was a fake. You only need to read the (frankly yucky) Valley Report original to realise that.
5. France bans work emails after 6pm
Some fake news stories contain a kernel of truth. Although France did recently implement a “right to disconnect” law, the nation absolutely has not banned work emails after 6pm. Interestingly, this is a fake news story which has surfaced more than once, first appearing back in 2014. Mon dieu.
6. ISIS set the Eiffel Tower on fire
A surprising amount of fake news came out of France in 2016, including reports that the iconic Eiffel Tower was on fire. In fact, a nearby fireworks truck accidentally caught fire close to the tower, causing the monument to be engulfed in smoke. The facts didn’t stop many purveyors of fake news jumping on the images and footage and hyping the situation with groundless terrorist attack claims.
7. Woman murders roommate for sending too many Candy Crush requests
Here’s even more silliness from daft fake news purveyors The Valley Report. This extremely widely shared piece of fake news reported on the murder of a 19 year old Candy Crush addict, whose constant game requests drove her college roommate to bludgeon her to death with an industrial-sized bag of jellybeans. Clearly fake, but with 438,599 Facebook engagements, some readers bought it.
8. Saudi scientists promote women to “mammals”
Another obvious fake, but one widely shared by 290,599 Facebook users and news sites, the news that Saudi Arabian scientists had upgraded women to “mammals” (apparently representing a huge win for women’s rights in the notoriously unequal nation) went viral right before International Women’s Day in 2016.
Supposed Amnesty International spokeswoman Jillian Birch claimed: “From now on, women will be considered as members of the mammal class, whereas before women shared the legal status of an object, similar to that of a home appliance”.
9. Harambe won thousands of votes in the US election
The late gorilla Harambe was widely reported to have accrued 11,000 write in votes in the 2016 presidential election, a number which many claimed could have tipped the scales in Clinton’s favour. In fact, this story was entirely fake news and thousands of votes were not given to a dead gorilla after all.
10. Hillary Clinton is a cannibal
Links to performance artist Marina Abramovic spawned a completely ridiculous torrent of conspiracy theories and fake news relating to the politician’s private life. From the ludicrous Pizzagate conspiracy, to claims of cannibalism and even that Hillary’s bout of ill health was the result of Kuru (a disease acquired by consuming human flesh), the whole episode was one of the most ridiculous fake news chapters in the whole presidential race.
Escaping fakery: how to steer clear of fake news
At its best, fake news is entertaining but potentially misleading, at its worst, fake news is downright dangerous – and its effects can be problematic for digital brands.
Whether you’re running a social media campaign and want to interact with breaking news, or you simply want to share something your target markets will find interesting, ensuring you’re not disseminating false information is important if you want to protect your business’s credibility.
These quick tips will help you identify and avoid fake news:
- Try some tools
There are a few Chrome extensions designed to flag up fake news as you browse which could alert you if the post you’re reading is a bunch of balderdash. Try B.S. Detector, Media Bias/Fact Check or This Is Fake.
- Know your sources
Not all fake news originates from established fake news sources, but being able to identify common creators will help you tell fact from fiction. This list of common fake news sites is very handy.
- Be “source sceptical”
If you’ve never heard of a news source before, be sceptical and do your research on the site and the story before re-posting anything it has shared. Tell tale signs like unusual domains (i.e. “.co.com”) can indicate a site isn’t legitimate, though many fake news sites look and feel very respectable – so exercise caution!
Our social media aggregator tool is fantastic for making the great content available to any of your digital marketing channels. From putting positive tweets from consumers in the spotlight, to showcasing an Instagram post featuring your product, we know how important sharing good news is. But don’t get fooled into publishing something that’s not real…our AI moderation tools are amazing but to spot a fake it takes a sharp pair of eyes and healthy dose of scepticism!
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