Nine Viral Images That are Totally Fake

By Matt Novak on at

Some days it feels like everything on the internet is fake. And I’m here to tell you to trust that instinct.

Would you believe that some of the internet’s fakery even comes from some of the world’s best news channels? You would? Then you’re way ahead of me. Today we have nine images you may have seen floating around this big, beautiful, deceitful internet of ours. And they’re all fake in one way or another.

1. Is this real lightning flashing over a volcanic eruption?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

The BBC is one of the most trusted news sources in the world. But its reputation took a major hit this week after it was revealed that it faked footage of lightning in a volcano for a TV special called Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise. Even Gizmodo got taken in by the deception.

The producers of the BBC show superimposed lightning that was filmed in 2011 over a volcanic eruption from 2015. As our own Casey Chan said when the video was doing the rounds, “it almost looks like a painting that’s been animated. The burst of bolts almost looks fake”.

It did look fake! Because it was! Sometimes nature’s magic tricks look too good to be true. And sometimes that’s because they are indeed far too good to be true.

Fake image via BBC; Gifs crafted by Andrew Liszewski

2. Is this the author of That’s So Raven, Edgar Allan Poe?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

There’s a Twitter account called AhistoricalPics that uses ridiculous photos and captions to mock those history-in-pictures accounts we all know and love. These supposedly factual Twitter accounts often just steal tweets from each other, creating Twitter’s version of an ouroboros – or, perhaps more accurately, a human centipede.

So it’s not surprising, (yet still hilarious), that History_Pics, an account with nearly 1.7 million followers, stole a tweet from AhistoricalPics – the parody account. Needless to say, Edgar Allan Poe didn’t pen the hit TV series That’s So Raven. Though admittedly, I would’ve loved to see that show adapt Poe’s short story The Cask of Amontillado. That’s so Mason.

Fake image via History_Pics and parody account @AHistoricalPics

3. Is this a real Coca-Cola ad?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

No, that isn’t a real Coke ad showing how the men of history brutally conquered the world. Oddly enough, it’s an ad for advertising itself and wasn’t sanctioned by the Coca-Cola company.

“How did Coke succeed where history’s most ambitious leaders failed?” the ad reads. “By choosing the right weapon. Advertising.”

As the advertising blogger Copyranter points out, this ad probably comes from a 1980s advertising trade journal (based on the font), and was produced by a Texas-based agency called The Richards Group. Is the ad insensitive? Sure. Was it made by Coke or any of its rivals? No.

Fake ad via Brilliant Ads on Twitter

4. Is this Obama on the phone?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

No, that’s not Obama talking on a phone upside down. It’s a photoshop-job that first circulated in both conservative political circles and pro-Hillary Clinton forums in 2008. You might notice that the photoshopped image includes a clock showing that it’s 3:00. That was in reference to Hillary Clinton’s infamous anti-Obama attack ad.

It’s 3AM and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders; knows the military; someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world, it’s 3AM and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

Clinton’s ad ran during the Democratic primary season and was supposed to stir fear that Obama didn’t have enough experience in foreign policy and shouldn’t be trusted. And we all know how the rest of that primary season panned out.

Fake image via Twitter

5. Is this an opium party in 1920?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

As Twitter debunker HoaxEye points out, the photo above doesn’t show a real-life opium party. It actually comes from a silent French movie circa 1920. The film, Dandy-Pacha, was directed by Georges Rémond, and while it looks like a mighty fun time, it’s not a candid photograph of people chasing the dragon.

Fake image via SadHappyAmazing on Twitter

6. Is this a Florida couple who were arrested for selling tickets to heaven?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

No, these people weren’t arrested for selling tickets to heaven. As Snopes points out, it’s a total and complete lie, fabricated by the fake news site Stuppid. Anyone passing around this story as true probably should’ve seen the name of the news site as their first clue that this one is a hoax. The people featured in the photo had nothing to do with Stuppid’s idiotic fake story.

Fake via Unessentialist on Twitter

7. Is this a raccoon helping his kitten friend?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

Could it be? Is this raccoon helping his little kitten buddy by kindly bringing him to some friendly humans? Does this photo restore your faith in humanity, or raccoonanity or whatever? Well, prepare to be disappointed. It’s a fake, as you can see by the original photo on the right.

And as the legendary Twitter debunker PicPedant points out, it’s an old fake, dating back to at least 2010. But that hasn’t stopped it from being spread far and wide. Raccoons are actually quite vicious. If you ever see a raccoon gently bringing you a living cat, be prepared to step outside and see The Rapture or something.

Fake image via MeetAnimals and Reddit

8. Is this a real sign calling for the death of America?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

These days it’s easy to make fake signs on the internet. Like, really easy. And the sign above it just one example of the thousands you’ll find online.

How easy? Well, here’s a sign I made using one of those church sign makers. And I assure you it’s 100 per cent true.

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

Image via Twitter/Facebook

9. Is this the Pope pulling a tablecloth magic trick?

9 Viral Images That Are Totally Fake

Did the Pope really pull off this magic trick? Nope. As we explained earlier this week, it was a computer-generated stunt by the folks over at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Impressive work nonetheless, but not divinely inspired.

Fake via the Ellen DeGeneres Show

This article originally appeared on Factually, a Gizmodo blog for setting the record straight