It’s that time of year again when we look back at the photos and GIFs that went viral over the past 12 months. We did similar year-end round-ups in 2014, 2015, 2016 and I must say that 2017 was even weirder than usual. How so? There were so many fake images swirling around the internet, it was difficult to decide which ones to debunk.
Image: Fake footage released by Russia’s Ministry of Defence purporting to show America helping ISIS but is actually from a video game
We debunked fewer than 30 images and GIFs this year but it wasn’t for lack of material. The term “fake news” has become so politically charged that simple fact-checking is met with suspicion.
Yes, we looked at plenty of fake political images this year, but we also investigated hoax photos of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, creepy Christmas photos, and even misleading photos about porn. Did you see the photos of that Japanese apartment where some poor guy was supposedly crushed to death by his own porn collection? That story was fake.
So without further ado, here are 29 photos and GIFs that you probably saw around the internet this year. And they’re all fake in one way or another.
Joshua Witt sporting the haircut that he falsely alleged was the reason that he was stabbed (left) Facebook post that went viral claiming Joshua Witt had been stabbed (right)
1) Did this guy actually get stabbed for his “neo-Nazi” haircut?
Remember that guy on Facebook who said he got stabbed by some stranger because he had a “neo-Nazi” haircut? You’re never going to believe this, but the story was total bullshit. He accidentally stabbed himself. And blamed it on a non-existent black guy.
Joshua Witt, a 26-year-old from Colorado, posted some photos to Facebook on August 16th, claiming that he had been stabbed for his “neo-Nazi haircut.” Cutting your hair extremely short on the sides and leaving some length on top has become known as the cool cut for kids on the alt-right.
“Soooooooo apparently I look like a neo-Nazi and got stabbed for it,” Witt claimed in a now-deleted post. “Luckily I put my hands up to stop it so he only stabbed my hand... please keep in mind there was no conversation between me and this dude I was literally just getting out of my car.”
Witt’s story was first debunked by Buzzfeed who contacted the police in Sheridan, Colorado for the full story. Gizmodo reached out to the Sheridan Police Department as well, who confirmed that Witt actually stabbed himself. And on top of that, he originally told police that his attacker was a “black male” in his mid-20s.
Police checked surveillance footage near the Steak n’ Shake where he was allegedly attacked and couldn’t find anybody running from the scene like Witt had claimed. What did they really find on the tapes? Footage of Witt buying a knife at a nearby store minutes before he was allegedly “attacked.”
“On August 24, 2017 Sheridan Police, re-interviewed Mr. Witt where he was confronted with all the information listed above,” Sheridan Police Chief Mark Campbell told Gizmodo in a statement.
“Mr. Witt subsequently admitted to accidentally cutting himself with the knife while parked in his car in front of the sporting goods store and admitted making up the story about being attacked,” Chief Campbell continued.
Witt was booked and released for filing a false police report. He faces up to a $2,650 (£1,983) fine and up to a year in jail.
Booking photo for Joshua Witt on August 24, 2017 after he confessed to accidentally stabbing himself and filing a false police report (Sheridan Police Department)
Judging by his booking photo, Witt actually let his hair grow out a bit, just as he told Fox News he was going to do. Probably a good call if there were actually people out there stabbing random passersby for having a high-and-tight haircut. But it’s less necessary now that we know the truth.
Don’t play with knives, kids. And if you accidentally stab yourself, don’t blame your problems on invisible black people.
Fake photo of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor that has gone viral (Twitter/Tumblr)
2) Is this Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor?
The internet loves Marilyn Monroe. But the internet is filled with tons of fake Marilyn Monroe photos. So you can probably guess what we have to say about the photo purporting to show Marilyn and Elizabeth Taylor above. That’s right, it’s phony.
Photo debunker Hoaxeye points out that the photo is actually a combination of two photos. The photo of Elizabeth Taylor was taken in 1948 by Mark Kauffman.
Fake composite photo of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor (left) and a photo of Elizabeth Taylor taken in 1948 by Mark Kauffman
And the photo of Marilyn Monroe was taken at Griffith Park in Los Angeles in 1950 by Ed Clark:
Fake composite photo of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor (left) and a photo of Marilyn Monroe in 1950 by Ed Clark
It’s unclear who first created the visual mash-up, but it will probably continue circulating online until the internet itself dies and withers away. Again, the internet really loves photos of Marilyn Monroe, real or fake.
Fake via Twitter
Vladimir Putin shows Oliver Stone footage he says displays Russian forces attacking ISIS in Syria (left) but the footage is actually American helicopters attacking Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009 (right)
3) Is this video that Vladimir Putin is showing Oliver Stone really Russians fighting ISIS?
Have you seen Oliver Stone’s latest documentary, The Putin Interviews? The four-part series is getting a lot of flack in the American press for being a love letter to Vladimir Putin. But there’s one scene in particular that’s now getting extra scrutiny. Putin appears to be helping spread fake news.
The third part of the four-hour documentary features a scene where Putin pulls out a smartphone and shows Stone what he says are Russian forces fighting ISIS in Syria. The only problem? The footage actually shows Americans fighting against Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009.
Our side-by side of the two films was pulled from YouTube for copyright infringement, despite it being fair use. But you can still watch the crucial parts above in GIF form.
Facebook user Fedir Panasenko was one of the first people to notice that something was amiss with the documentary footage. Panasenko linked to what he believed was the original video from 2013. But I was able to track down the original video, hosted on Military.com, which is actually from 2009.
As you can see, the original video has American pilots speaking English as they blow up and shoot at what are purported to be Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The 2013 video on YouTube (which is correctly labelled as Americans fighting against Taliban) has been viewed over a million times, so it’s no surprise that it has been recut and re-uploaded for other purposes. The footage that Putin shows Stone appears to have been re-dubbed in Russian and uploaded to YouTube in March of 2016—or at least one version with very few views.
It purportedly shows Russian Mi-28 helicopters, according to the YouTube description. But, again, it’s actually from 2009 and shows Apache helicopters. The footage was uploaded to Military.com in 2012.
An excerpt from a scene in Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews where Vladimir Putin shows a video that he claims is Russian forces attacking ISIS fighters
For all we know, Putin actually believes the footage is from Russia’s fight against ISIS. But it’s not. We reached out to Oliver Stone’s representatives for comment but never heard back. Stone told Russian state TV that he believes Putin, asking why would he lie?
— RT (@RT_com) June 22, 2017
Remember when Donald Trump tweeted out a video that purported to show how someone who rushed the stage during one of his rallies was a member of ISIS? Trump defended his tweet by saying “all I know is what’s on the internet.” Putin could very well be in the same boat in this case.
It appears President Trump and Vladimir Putin might have even more in common than we first thought. They’re not evil geniuses playing 10D chess. They just believe everything they see on the internet.
The Moscow Times is reporting that Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov insists the Russian Defense Ministry gave Putin the footage.
“[Claims that the footage is American] are not true. I can confirm that these materials come from a report from the Ministry of Defence which was given to the president,” Peskov said. “Statements [to the contrary] are incorrect and irrelevant.”
Sure, guys. Sure.
4) Are these hot air balloons in the night sky?
Pictures of the sky at night are incredibly popular online. But sometimes those photos are heavily manipulated, like the image above.
As veteran photo debunker PicPedant points out, this image is a composite of two photos. The big clue? To get the stars so bright you would need to have a long exposure time, but such a long exposure would cause moving objects like the balloons to blur.
Fake via EducationalPics
5) Did this young girl really call President Trump a disgrace?
Have you seen that video of a young girl telling President Trump that he’s “a disgrace to the world”? It’s a satisfying clip for those who believe the president needs to be called out to his face. But the video is completely fake.
The clip went viral on Twitter this year, with countless people believing it was a young girl speaking truth to the most powerful man in the world. But the clip is actually from a Comedy Central series called “The President Show” starring Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik. The show debuted this year and airs on Thursdays in the US after the Daily Show.
The clip that has gone viral is embedded below. As you can see, it’s cropped so that the Comedy Central logo has been cut out.
who is she 👏🏿 pic.twitter.com/amElWRGFdp
— najahta (@najahtaa) May 7, 2017
As you can see from the original video, the Trump is clearly fake, and even agrees with the young girl that he’s a disgrace. There’s some question as to whether the young girl’s response is genuine, but actors insist that her response is real.
Atamanuik is a decent Trump impersonator, but it’s hard to believe that anyone who’s up close to the man really thinks it’s him. If you take a look at his face, he’s clearly not President Trump.
President Donald Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik in a screenshot from the Comedy Central series, The President Show (Comedy Central)
Twitter user najahtaa, who captioned the video “who is she,” has racked up over 150,000 retweets and 220,000 likes so far and clearly has no intention of pulling it, despite the fact that’s it’s being passed around as real.
Even though it’s fake, many people on social media don’t seem to care, which certainly speaks to the fact that lefties just want a win—any win, really. The little girl said what so many people want to say to the real Donald Trump.
But for the time being it seems that no one is going to get the chance to tell Trump that he’s a disgrace. Unless his favourite show, Fox & Friends, takes a really weird turn.
GIF of a Bruce Lee look-alike playing ping pong with nunchucks in a 2008 ad for Nokia (YouTube)
6) Is this Bruce Lee playing ping pong with nunchucks?
Nope. This video is actually from a 2008 Nokia ad for the Nokia N96 Limited Edition Bruce Lee phone. The ad used a look-alike actor and special effects to make it look like Bruce Lee. The real Bruce Lee died in 1973.
Fake via Twitter
7) Is this Vladimir Putin in a huddle during the G-20 summit?
Have you seen this viral photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin? It shows the authoritarian leader in the middle of an intense discussion between other world leaders at the G-20. But it’s completely fake. And the fakery has even inspired a meme.
Putin supporters have been circulating the image to make it look like the Russian president is in the middle of the action. But it’s bullshit. How do we know it’s fake? Because we have multiple camera angles on that exact moment from a variety of photographers.
The original image that has since been photoshopped was taken by Kayhan Ozer for Getty Images. Other photographers like Markus Schreiber for the Associated Press took some identical photos during the discussion.
(Markus Schreiber/Associated Press)
As you can see, America’s own authoritarian leader Donald Trump is speaking with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The empty seat was for the UK’s Theresa May as Angela Merkel looks over their shoulders.
It’s unclear who made the photoshop with Putin, but one of the earliest people to post the altered photo was Russian journalist and Putin loyalist Vladimir Soloviev. He’s since deleted the post from Facebook after getting ridiculed on the social media site.
And the good people of the internet have done what the internet does best when something has been found out as fake: They’ve made even more fakes.
Like this one showing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the middle of the action.
Да ладно, че уж там) pic.twitter.com/fvP7KMBMzC
— Tyrion Lannister (@jetztsofort) July 8, 2017
And this one showing Dobby from the Harry Potter series sitting in Theresa May’s seat.
But let me just state for the record that Putin is the best and most intelligent and most beautiful leader in the world. People who say otherwise have a tendency to find themselves dead.
Or, in the case of President Donald Trump, they get called fake news. Which, if history is any guide, is probably just the beginning of the shitshow. Especially when you’ve embarrassed the country by putting your daughter in your seat among world leaders and alienated yourself from the rest of the world.
This isn’t going to end well for anybody. Least of all Americans.
Fake photo purporting to show an anti-trans bus that was bombed in Spain (Twitter)
8) Is this a bus covered in transphobic ads bombed in Spain?
These busses covered in transphobic messages have been popping up in the US, the UK, and Spain. And they’ve rightly become the target of protest by people who are angry at their hateful sentiment. Some of the busses have even been vandalised. But as Buzzfeed explains, images showing one such bus after a bomb explosion are a Photoshop job.
The busses are run by the National Organisation for Marriage, a Washington-based hate group. The group calls the effort a free speech campaign.
“Boys are boys and girls are girls—it’s very simple,” Brian Brown, head of the group, told USA Today about the buses. “We don’t want men in girl’s restrooms. We don’t want schools and our law attempting to say that people are bigoted simply because they understand that there’s a difference between male and female.”
It’s not clear who first created the photoshopped buses, but the images have been used by both transgender rights activists and transphobic activists alike. All we know is that there haven’t been any bomb attacks on these buses in Spain or anywhere else.
Fake via Twitter
9) Is this really a robot violently throwing a basketball?
Have you seen this GIF of a humanoid robot in a lab? It shows an inventor gently tossing a basketball at his robot. The inventor excitedly turns to the camera only to have the robot throw the ball back and hit him in the face. The GIF has gone viral recently, but it’s totally fake.
The video is actually an experimental short film called “Project Helios” that was directed by Giso Spijkerman and posted to Vimeo last year. The synopsis of the film describes the computer-generated robot as a sibling of Boston Dynamics’ Atlas. The fictional robot has a “BK371 Artificial Intelligence module,” which isn’t a thing.
Granted, humanoid robotics has been making some terrifying strides recently. Did you see that Atlas can now jump between boxes? It does backflips. We’ve hit the point where robots are more agile than a lot of humans and that’s definitely scary. But this one is an art project.
The misleading GIF was most recently sent around by the Twitter account @Scienmag. The dodgy account is verified and looks like a legit source of information, but it’s constantly spreading bullshit. As you can see, the caption to their most recent upload says, “And this is how the robot apocalypse started” and gives no indication that it’s a fake.
Thankfully, the account was recently suspended for impersonating Science magazine.
Photo: Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP
10) Is this Donald Trump crudely dumping fish food into a koi pond?
Did you see that photo of President Trump with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the koi pond? It purportedly shows Trump crudely dumping fish food into the pond as Abe looks on in horror. The photo went viral this year as people ridiculed Trump for being such a buffoon. But the photo is actually misleading.
Yes, Americans rightly have plenty of preconceived notions about President Trump’s ridiculous behaviour. But the story that was attached to this photo, and instantly went viral on Twitter, isn’t accurate. In reality, Abe was first to pour his fish food into the pond. President Trump was simply following his lead.
The two were carrying on a tradition at the koi pond, and critics of Trump were quick to point out that you shouldn’t feed koi too much food.
So where did this inaccurate narrative for an admittedly stupid and inconsequential story come from? The first White House pool reports. But as you can see from the video, Trump was merely doing what his host had done.
Conservative commentators have pointed to this incident as a case of “fake news” that shows just how untrustworthy the media are. And while it’s an unfortunate gaffe, it’s perhaps not the biggest scandal of the day.
In the wide world of media mistakes, Koigate is probably somewhere between a spelling error and posting the wrong hyperlink. But you can be sure that we’ll be talking about Koigate for some time as an example of what’s wrong with the media. Because nobody is operating in good faith anymore. The year 2017 and beyond is simply a contest to see who can be outraged over the most minute details of any scandal.
Fake Thomas Jefferson quote tweeted by Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (Twitter)
11) Is this a real quote from Thomas Jefferson?
People love to quote the US Founding Fathers to give their arguments some gravitas, but idiots on the internet help spread fake quotes from those Founding Fathers far and wide online. One such idiot is US Congressman Tom Garrett, who represents Virginia’s 5th District. Unfortunately for the people in Mr. Garrett’s district, their Congressman will tweet old quotes that are completely fake.
Recently, Congressman Garrett tweeted out this quote that’s supposed to be from Thomas Jefferson: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalised version of the first.”
As the Jefferson Foundation explains, there’s no evidence that Jefferson actually said this. The quote actually appears to come from libertarian hero Ayn Rand.
From Rand’s 1963 essay titled “Man’s Rights” in The Virtue of Selfishness:
There are two potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government. The great achievement of the United States was to draw a distinction between these two—by forbidding to the second the legalised version of the activities of the first.
So, yeah, not exactly a Founding Father.
Fake via Twitter
A 1949 photo from Austria of Krampus, the terrifying Christmas tradition of a half-goat, half-demon who goes after children (Flickr/Twitter)
12) Is this a creepy photo discovered in a thrift store?
Have you seen this “creepy photo that was recently discovered in a thrift store” with “only the year 1922 found written on the back”? Pretty spooky, right? Well, it’s not quite what it seems.
Yes, the photo is creepy as hell, but as photo debunker Hoaxeye explains, the picture is actually from 1949 and shows a man dressed as Krampus, a terrifying half-goat, half-demon folk legend recognised in Eastern Europe as a companion to Saint Nicholas. Unlike Santa Claus, Krampus terrorises little children who are bad.
The photo was originally posted to Flickr under the caption, “Little Brother riding on Krampus Shoulders.” Still spooky? Sure. But not quite as mysterious as so many viral Twitter accounts would have you believe.
Fake via Twitter
13) Are these Donald Trump’s large adult sons?
Have you seen this photo of Donald Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric? It made me do a double-take recently. But it’s not real. The photo has been altered to make the Trump brothers look like cartoon characters. Or something like that.
Welcome future Overlords!! pic.twitter.com/C29735f3og
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) July 10, 2017
Given the recent news stories about Donald Trump Jr.’s attempt to collude with the Russian government, the eldest Trump son has been in the news a lot. And it doesn’t look like Junior will be out of the headlines anytime soon. He tweeted out damning evidence that he met with a Russian lawyer who promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, and the emails explicitly say that the Russian government wanted Trump to win. So you no longer have to just take US intelligence agencies at their word, I guess.
But that goofy photo is a complete photoshop job and needs to be called out as such, much like the fake photos of Steve Bannon that have been doing the rounds. It’s not clear who first made the fake image, but the original photo is from November 12th, 2005 at Mar-a-Lago when Donald Trump Jr. got married at his father’s private club—the same club that presents a massive conflict of interest now that foreign governments can buy a membership to peddle interest there.
Other photos from that same day show not only Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric, but their sister Ivanka.
Donald Trump Jr. poses with his sister Ivanka Trump and brother Eric Trump after the wedding ceremony at the Mar-a-Lago Club November 12, 2005 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
Their brother Barron wasn’t born yet, but the other Trump sister Tiffany isn’t included in the photos for some reason. Poor Tiffany. She always seems to be left out of the party. But it’s probably for the best, given the fact that the Trump regime is more or less a criminal enterprise at this point.
Strangely, the Getty Images watermark has confused people into believing that the altered image might be authentic. But, of course, it’s possible to photoshop things with the watermark still on them. It’s not clear if Anthony Bourdain realises he’s passing around a fake.
Donald Trump Jr. may be an incredible sleaze who sold out his country and deserves to be in prison, but that photo of him is “fake news,” as they say.
14) Is this a real quote from Benjamin Franklin?
Again, people love to quote the Founding Fathers. But did Benjamin Franklin really say, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority”? You can probably guess by now that he didn’t.
Snopes points out that the quote might be from counterculture icon Timothy Leary, but we don’t know for sure. All we know is that there’s no evidence Ben Franklin ever said it.
People love to put words in the mouths of dead people, circulating many of the things that Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Winston Churchill never said. But if you see this Ben Franklin quote coming from one of those GEE WHIZ HISTORY accounts, you know it’s fake.
Fake via Twitter
A photoshopped image of White House advisor Steve Bannon that has gone viral (left) compared with the original photograph by Jonathan Ernst (right)
15) Is this a real photo of Steve Bannon?
This photo of Trump advisor Steve Bannon was popping up on social media earlier this year. Anthony Bourdain even tweeted that he thought Bannon might have syphilis. And whether Bourdain is joking or not, plenty of people think the photo is real. But it’s totally fake.
Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart who has quickly risen to power in Washington, has come under fire for being the architect of many of the Trump regime’s most heinous policies. And with the criticism of Bannon has come plenty of unflattering photoshops. But sometimes it’s hard to tell which ones are photoshopped and which ones are real.
As you can see from the photos above, the photo on the left has been altered. The original is on the right, and was taken by photographer Jonathan Ernst in the Oval Office on January 28, 2017 for Reuters.
It’s easy to tell that it was photoshopped when you see the images side by side. But the image has spread far enough that it’s safe to say plenty of people think it might be real. When I first saw the photo I definitely did a double take. The original creator of the photoshop was Vic Berger IV on Twitter. His followers probably got the joke. But it quickly spread everywhere without context.
Making fun of someone’s appearance is, of course, not very nice. But the internet’s fascination with Bannon’s mug has a lot to do with Bannon’s worldview, which is undeniably racist. Bannon, as editor of Breitbart, oversaw a website that had a “Black Crime” section, and told his ex-wife that he didn’t want his children going to school with Jews.
Bannon’s “boss,” Mr. Donald J. Trump has his own obsession with genetics and being born with certain superior genes, often comparing humans to racehorses in the past to explain his theories.
“I’m a gene believer... hey when you connect two race horses you get usually end up with a fast horse,” Trump told an interviewer on CNN in 2010. “I had a good gene pool from the stand point of that so I was pretty much driven.”
Photos of Bannon have inspired plenty of memes and counter-memes. For instance, one meme that was started by comedy writer Bryan Donaldson shows the fake image of Bannon next to actor Idris Elba with the caption, “Just a reminder that the guy on the left believes he is genetically superior to the guy on the right.”
Screenshot of a viral tweet by Bryan Donaldson about Steve Bannon’s racist views with the caption “Just a reminder that the guy on the left believes he is genetically superior to the guy on the right (Twitter)
It’s unclear if Donaldson knows that the image is photoshopped, but it set off plenty of spin-off memes, like this one featuring Sonic the Hedgehog:
Screenshot of a meme about Steve Bannon’s racist views with the caption “Just a reminder that the guy on the left believes he is genetically superior to the guy on the right (Twitter)
Another photo of Bannon that’s commonly used to poke fun at his “genetic superiority” is this one that shows him looking rather slovenly on a couch.
Comedian Johnny McNulty started his own insult comic stream on Twitter that definitely took Bannon’s appearance to task in some very real photos.
“Insulting Bannon’s bloated visage may not be what stops this but y’know what? It’s fun,” McNulty tweeted. “He looks like a rash fucked an even bigger rash.”
This prompted other Twitter comedians to chime in with their own zingers like, “He looks like if Bukowski wrote a short story about a full vacuum cleaner bag,” and that he looks like “your divorced dad’s friend who showers at his apartment then hangs around in front of you in a towel.”
Again, not very nice stuff to say. Not very nice at all. But then again, he is the guy helping dismantle everything good about the United States at the moment. So it’s hard to feel too sorry for him.
Meryl Streep telling Conan O’Brien about how she was afraid on the set of the 1985 film Out of Africa (NBC)
16) Is this a GIF of Meryl Streep mocking a disabled person?
Have you seen this shocking clip of Meryl Streep making fun of a disabled person? Well, unlike the clip of Donald Trump doing the same thing, this one is actually fake.
Back in 2015, Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter at a campaign event. He flailed his arms around, as if to mimic Serge Kovaleski from the New York Times. As you probably know, actress Meryl Streep condemned Trump (without using his name) for this obscene ridicule at the Golden Globe Awards.
Now, some conspiracy-minded folks have created a new gif of Streep supposedly making fun of someone who’s mentally challenged. The problem, however, is that it’s taken completely out of context.
Radio personality Kayla Vas posted the gif showing Streep, and helped it go viral. Well, in some circles, at least.
But as Twitter user Erik Patterson points out, the clip of Streep actually comes from the July 27th, 2009 episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. She was promoting her film Julie & Julia, and she was actually talking about filming with a lion in the 1985 film Out of Africa.
You can fast forward to minute 6:12 where she talks about getting terrified working with a lion that had been off its leash.
As you can see from the clip, Streep isn’t making fun of anyone, aside from maybe herself for putting her hands up in shock that the lion, which had previously been on a leash, was now charging towards her.
People have tried to point out to Kayla Vas that the clip is out of context and doesn’t show Streep mocking a disabled person. But Vas doesn’t seem to care, calling anyone who questions it “brainwashed.”
Ok, cool, glad we got that sorted out.
17) Is this footage of Muslims celebrating a terror attack in Paris?
On April 20th, 2017, Paris was struck yet again by a terror attack, killing a police officer and leaving two other people critically injured. But if you see the video below, purporting to show “a crowd of ‘moderate’ Muslims celebrating the Paris terror attack in London,” don’t believe it. It’s not what it appears to be.
The video pops up periodically when terror attacks occur. And this time it’s being spread with the help of people like Paul Golding, a far-right political leader in England who heads the group Britain First. But the video doesn’t show Muslims celebrating a terror attack. It’s a video of British Pakistanis celebrating a cricket match victory back in 2009.
As the Independent reported back in 2015, the video received roughly half a million views after the Paris attacks in November 2015 that killed 130 people. It had been posted to Facebook with a similar caption, claiming that it showed Muslims in London celebrating the terror attacks in Paris. That video has since been removed.
It’s a popular rightwing meme around the world to say that Muslims in Western countries are celebrating attacks on civilians in places like the United States, England, and France. President Donald Trump even claimed that he saw Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. But more often than not, it’s simply a lie, as was the case with Trump.
Paul Golding, the British politician who’s helping spread the anti-Muslim video, was jailed for eight weeks last year when he violated a court order not to enter any mosques in England or Wales. He had been participating in “mosque invasions” where he would ambush people worshipping and accuse them of sex slavery.
More recently, Golding posted video of himself yelling “fuck off you fucking foreign cunt” during a clash between anti-fascist protestors and anti-immigrant groups in the UK. Sounds like a charming fellow.
Promotional image for an interview with President Trump by ABC News that used a fake photo originally created back in September before he was elected
18) Is this a photo of Donald Trump in the Oval Office?
Back in September 2016, two months before the US presidential election, The New Yorker ran an article imagining the worst possible future: a Trump presidency. The article was accompanied by a mocked-up photo of Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Well, that darkest possible future really happened. And oddly enough, ABC News accidentally used the fake photo for a TV promo.
The photo, seen above, was created by Ji Lee for The New Yorker, accompanying an article titled “Trump’s First Term.” The entire piece imagines the devastation that would follow if Donald Trump were somehow elected. But someone at ABC News accidentally used the photo to promote an upcoming interview with Donald Trump. And sadly, we’re now seeing that devastation play out in real time.
“When the marketing team created the promo, they included the wrong image by mistake,” a representative of ABC News told Politico. “They updated it with a new photo as soon as they realised the error. We regret the mistake.”
Fake photo supposedly depicting the burning of tipis at the NoDAPL protests in North Dakota, which is actually a publicity photo for the 2007 HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
19) Is this a photo of police in North Dakota burning tipis at the DAPL protests?
Police have brutalised protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota over the past year. But this photo of burning tipis, which is now going viral, isn’t from the protests. It’s from a fictional HBO movie that aired ten years ago.
Protestors have been clashing with police over the DAPL since April. And despite a brief respite in September, when former US president Obama ordered construction on the pipeline to stop, things are heating up again as President Trump vows to push the pipeline ahead as originally planned.
Twitter user Lina Lightbringer tweeted out the photo yesterday with the caption, “America, 2017. Police, burning down the NoDAPL home base, tipis and all. Utterly, thoroughly, grotesque & monstrous.” As bad as it looks, however, it’s totally fake. A version of the photo was actually used as a publicity shot for the 2007 HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. You can see the original at HBO’s website.
Not only has the altered photo been cropped to take out the man on the horse, whoever made it also added snow and hay bales.
Publicity photo for the 2007 HBO TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which has recently been cropped and captioned to falsely claim it occurred at the NoDAPL protests (HBO)
The fake image has popped up on at least two news sites, including something called If You Only News and Alternative Media Syndicate. It’s unclear if Lightbringer posted the photo first or if the Twitter user merely got it from one of these sites.
So, what did the campsites of the protests really looked like? Militarised police shooting protesters with water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures and spraying protesters with pepper spray.
Protestors confront police in riot gear as a haze of pepper spray wafts over the river on November 2, 2016 (AP Photo/John L. Mone)
Make no mistake that protesters and the journalists covering the protest were brutalised by police. The response has been horrifying for people who believe that Native Americans should have a say in the way that their land and resources are being used. But that photo is totally fake, and it does a disservice to the cause of the water protectors when people spread fake information, knowingly or not.
Screenshot of Friday’s edition of the Dominican newspaper El Nacional showing “Donald Trump”, who is in fact, Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump on SNL
20) Is this a real photo of Donald Trump in the newspaper?
A newspaper in the Dominican Republic has issued an apology for running “fake news” about the Trump regime. Did the paper question the racial superiority of Steve Bannon or doubt the size of Trump’s enormous hands? Nope. The paper accidentally ran a photo of Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump on SNL instead of a photo showing the real president.
El Nacional published an article about President Trump’s views on settlements in Israel. The piece included an accurate photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the photo of Trump was a bit... off.
The newspaper ran a correction, explaining that they had just pulled the photo from the Associated Press wire service and that it simply went unnoticed by everyone who reviewed it. Who among us hasn’t made that mistake, right? I mean, real life has become so absurd that it’s basically beyond parody at this point.
The error has been picked up and ridiculed on social media, with plenty of people wondering if the Dominican Republic will now be added to Trump’s list of banned countries, referring to the seven predominantly Muslim countries from which Trump has tried to restrict travel to the US.
Here at Gizmodo, we don’t want newspapers to be running fake news. So if you’re going to write about the US president, we humbly suggest using the very real photo of Trump seen below.
Screenshot of a fake quote sent out by the official GOP Twitter account attributing the saying to Abraham Lincoln (Twitter)
21) Is this quote from Abraham Lincoln real?
Republicans love to remind everybody that they’re the party of Abraham Lincoln. Which is true. But they might want to do a little more research on Honest Abe. Because the GOP Twitter account tweeted a fake Lincoln quote.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,” the quote reads, attributing it to the 16th President of the United States.
The tweet was sent out with a “Happy Birthday” for the President. The only problem? President Lincoln never said this.
In fact, the quote probably originates from the 1940s. As the website Quote Investigator notes, a version of the quote was probably first uttered by a medical doctor named Edward J. Stieglitz, quoted in the Chicago Tribune in 1947.
Quote Investigator tracks the quote in a blog post from 2012, showing how it morphs and is attributed to different people throughout the second half of the 20th century. By the 1980s quotation books were saying that it originated with politician Adlai Stevenson, the US Senator from Illinois.
The earliest person to connect the quote to Lincoln might be in a book from 1997 called God’s Abundance by Kathy Collard Miller. Though it’s possible, if not probable, that Miller wasn’t the first. Either way, it seems that the shift to attributing it to Lincoln most likely occurred sometime in the 1990s.
It’s certainly possible that the quote even predates 1947, but there’s absolutely no evidence that Lincoln ever said it. But with Donald Trump in charge, the GOP doesn’t seem too concerned these days with hiring fact checkers.
Photo of a hoarder’s porn collection in Japan, taken by a clean-up crew (Nikkan Spa! Japan)
22) Does this photo show an apartment in Japan filled with deadly porn?
Did you hear the story about a man in Japan who got crushed to death by his porn collection? It didn’t happen. But you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, thanks to this dumb game of Telephone we call The Internet.
“Porn really is bad for you!” the Daily Mail headline blares. “Lonely Japanese man who amassed a SIX-TON pile of dirty magazines died when it collapsed on top of him... and his body wasn’t found for six months.”
But almost nothing about that headline is correct. The Daily Mail seems to have taken a sad story of a man’s death in Japan and added a few lies to make it more sensational. And from there it went viral, getting picked up by the likes of The Mirror, The Toronto Sun, CBS Philly, and Sky News Australia, among a host of others.
So what really happened? Recently a Japanese man was found dead in his apartment. The man lived alone and had been dead for a month before he was discovered. The coroner ruled that he’d died of a heart attack. How do we know the real story? It was reported in Nikkan Spa in Japan on February 28th, 2017. The Daily Mail story was published on March 3rd, 2017.
The Daily Mail story doesn’t link out to Nikkan Spa, or acknowledge at all where its information came from. The average reader would assume that all the information presented in the Daily Mail story was collected by the Daily Mail alone. It appears that nothing in the Daily Mail’s version contains original reporting, aside from the sensationalist errors that it introduced.
“Man killed by six-ton pornography collection,” the Toronto Sun said.
“Man crushed to death by porn collection,” Sky News Australia claimed.
“Man dies after 6-ton porn collection falls on top of him,” CBS Philly declared.
But none of that is true.
Yes, the man had a huge porn collection. But there’s absolutely no evidence that he died from it falling on top of him, nor that he’d been dead for six months. In fact, the most gruesome bit of evidence from the original story in Japan points to the fact that he fell on top of his porn collection during his heart attack.
The original story notes that many times people who live and die alone (known as “kodokushi” in Japan) aren’t found until bodily fluids leak through the floor onto tenants below. In this case, the magazines reportedly absorbed the bodily fluids of the man’s decomposing body because he fell on top of them.
“In order not to become a shame of the deceased, we try to dispose of adult toys in the room so that the bereaved family will not be aware of it,” a man from a cleaning crew who specialises in lonely deaths told Nikkan Spa.
The man was clearly a hoarder of porn magazines. And he died of a heart attack amongst his hoard of porn. But he wasn’t crushed by it. I guess “Hoarder dies surrounded by porn” is a less clicky headline than “OMG MAN LITERALLY DIES CRUSHED BY 6 TONS OF PORN.”
And you wonder why Wikipedia recently banned the Daily Mail as a source for information on the community encyclopedia? This is why.
Fake telegram designed to look like it was from 1973 and sent by Ray Kroc to the White House, reading “RICHARD NIXON RETIRE BITCH” (Twitter)
23) Is this a real telegram from McDonald’s telling Richard Nixon to “retire bitch”?
This year, the McDonald’s Twitter account got into a bit of trouble when it sent a tweet to President Trump calling him a “disgusting excuse for a president.” We still don’t know what happened (McDonald’s said its account was “compromised”) but Fortune magazine noted that it wasn’t the first time that McDonald’s had been aggressive against a sitting president.
In an article on Friday, Fortune magazine cited a 1973 telegram sent from McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc to Nixon. The message? “RICHARD NIXON RETIRE BITCH.” But, of course, the telegram was fake.
The fake telegram was created by Toronto Twitter user matttomic, and surprisingly, some people took issue with what seemed like an obvious fake. They blamed the fact that Fortune took the telegram’s authenticity at face value on matttomic rather than on Fortune writers not using a bit of common sense. One freelance writer for the Daily Mash was particularly unpleased.
“You can blame ‘old’ media for not being social media-savvy enough yet. Or stop doing unhelpful faked tweets for sweet, sweet RTs. Your call,” Nick Pettigrew, the alleged comedy writer, tweeted.
But we have to side with the fake telegram creator in this case. People generate fake news all the time that’s meant to deceive. But anyone who thinks that the founder of McDonald’s actually sent President Nixon a telegram with the words “retire bitch” deserves a bit of ridicule. This was an obvious joke.
The original news item in Fortune read:
Few people need a weekend as badly as McDonald’s social media managers. Hackers cracked the company’s official Twitter account Thursday and used it to send an abusive message to President Trump. The company deleted the tweet and made its excuses before Trump supporters could raise a head of steam to boycott the company as they have done with, for example, Starbucks, which promised to hire more refugees in the wake of the proposed travel ban. The incident was an eerie echo of an episode in 1973, when a McDonald’s employee sent an abusive telegram (“RETIRE B***H”) to Richard Nixon under the name of then-CEO Ray Kroc, an avid Nixon supporter.
Oddly enough, this reporter for Fortune was smart enough to know that Ray Kroc supported Nixon, but couldn’t apply enough scepticism to realise that perhaps this was a modern creation of the internet.
Fortune eventually issued a correction:
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to an earlier similar incident, which did not actually happen.
And it’s all too bad. It’d be fun to make people of the future believe that Richard Nixon received a telegram from the future that read “retire bitch.”
The phrase has decidedly 21st century origins, stemming from when actor Danny DeVito tweeted out “Antonin Scalia retire bitch” back in 2013. So not exactly something you’d hear in 1973, let alone from the CEO of a major corporation to the president.
Hoax apology posted to Facebook yesterday by a fake account purporting to be Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Screenshot via Twitter/Facebook)
24) Did Sean Spicer say that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on “fellow Germans”?
On April 11th, Sean Spicer said that Hitler, “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” It was completely wrong and he apologised. One version of Spicer’s apology was posted on Facebook, and it appears to be just as offensive as his original statement. The only problem? It’s totally fake.
The doctored apology appeared on a now-deleted Facebook page called “Press Secretary Sean Spicer.” As James Cook from Business Insider UK points out, the Facebook post was a total hoax and isn’t run by anyone associated with the White House. But that hasn’t stopped the fake apology from being spread far and wide on social media.
The fake apology said that, “It was not my intention to imply that Hitler had never used chemical weapons, but that he never used them on fellow Germans.” The hoax post went on to say that, “Where Assad is attacking his own people with chemical weapons, you have to wonder if he is willing to do the same to United States citizens.”
People who saw the message and didn’t realise it was fake were rightly upset, as most of the people that Hitler gassed were his fellow Germans—German Jews, among a host of others.
As often happens, the Facebook post was passed around on other social media platforms like Twitter, where it spread even further. But again, despite the fact that what Sean Spicer originally said was completely wrong and there were rightfully calls for his resignation, this particular Facebook post was a hoax.
Spicer’s actual apology wasn’t exactly stellar. But at least he didn’t say anything about “fellow Germans.”
“Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison,” Spicer told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. “And for that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.”
Spicer later released a statement:
In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.
Do you want to see a fake that’s actually funny? Someone spliced Spicer’s press conference idiocy into a closing credits sequence for the HBO show Veep. Now, that’s funny.
Well, it would be if it wasn’t so terrifying that our reality is literally worse than an episode of a satirical show.
25) Is this a real CNN breaking news alert?
Did you see this perfectly timed news alert about presidential advisor Steve Bannon accepting a new role in the White House? It turns out it was a bit too perfect. Which is to say it was totally fake.
The CNN screenshot went viral after it was tweeted by a TV producer named Melissa Jo Peltier. The joke, of course, is that it looks like CNN is inadvertently announcing Bannon has accepted a new role at the White House as the Easter Bunny.
It turns out that the image was actually created by the social media team at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and was tweeted out earlier in the day. The show made the same joke last night without the CNN breaking news bit. If you look in the upper lefthand corner you can even see a faint watermark for The Daily Show. It’s funny, but totally fake.
Fake via Twitter
Excerpt from a fake 19th century infographic called the Gentleman’s Guide to Amputation (Tumblr, Twitter)
26) Is this the Gentleman’s Guide to Amputation?
Have you seen this 19th century guide to amputation? It’s pretty gruesome in a stoic, matter-of-fact way. Thankfully, it’s not real.
This fake has been swirling around for years. It was created as an infographic by an art student and then posted to Tumblr, where it quickly went viral. You’ll see it pop up again and again on those OMG HISTORY Twitter accounts. But it’s an art project, not a piece of history.
The entire fake 19th century infographic called the Gentleman’s Guide to Amputation (Tumblr, Twitter)
27) Is this a real photo of British Prime Minister Theresa May?
Have you seen that photo of Theresa May and her fellow Tories in front of the Edvard Munch painting, The Scream? It was going viral on Twitter this year. But sadly, it’s completely fake.
The photo actually dates back to September 2016 and shows British Prime Minister Theresa May with 27 cabinet members. The photo took some heat when it was first released for showing a “genuinely impressive lack of diversity” in the British government. But, more recently, some unknown photoshop artist turned it into a dig at the state of British politics here in 2017.
The real photo is below, and as you can see, the famous 1893 painting is nowhere to be seen.
It’s not actually the most recent photo of May and her cabinet, which you can see below. This latest photo was released by Downing Street on July 17, 2017 and shows everyone in front of that same painting.
But do you want to see a photo that’s not only completely real, but also a bit strange? This one of Boris Johnson hasn’t been altered in any way.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)
And, um, neither has this one.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)
Or this one.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)
Or, um, this one.
(Photo by Jack Hill - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the British government has a weird relationship with robots. And you don’t need to go around photoshopping anything to find embarrassing pictures of the Tories.
Photo altered by The Onion
28) Is this photo of Steve Bannon with blood on his mouth real?
Have you seen this photo of White House advisor Steve Bannon? It’s been doing the rounds on Twitter. But it’s totally fake. Well, it’s kind of fake. It’s mostly fake. It’s... a bit fake.
Bannon is definitely in President Trump’s top-five favourite white nationalists. And the photo has gone viral as a particularly disgusting vision of a man who’s grotesque both inside and out. But the photo was actually altered by parody news site, The Onion. (The Onion is owned by Univision, the parent company of Gizmodo Media Group.)
The photo was published to The Onion under the headline, “Nervous Steve Bannon Binge-Eats Entire Class of Interns Amid Calls For Removal.”
The original photo from Getty Images was taken by photographer Mark Wilson at the White House on April 20th, 2017, and looks like this:
Do you see the difference? Some blood has been added to Bannon’s lip and shirt in The Onion’s version. It’s not much, leading to the confusion. But enough that we know it’s fake.
One more time, here’s the fake:
And here’s the real deal:
Still not seeing it? Maybe this will help...
Oh shit, now that I’ve put them side by side I can’t tell the difference. Which one is the fake? I guess we’ll never know.
29) Does this GIF prove that the United States is helping ISIS?
Russia’s Ministry of Defence released startling visual proof recently that the United States military is assisting ISIS. The only problem with Russia’s claims? The photographic “evidence” actually came from a video game.
Russia’s MoD posted the claims on Facebook and Twitter, saying that the images showed the US had “categorically refused to carry out airstrikes against Daesh [ISIS] terrorists, claiming that the militants were ‘voluntarily surrendering’ and now fell under the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.”
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) November 14, 2017
But the still images sent out by Russia actually came from a game called AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. You can watch a clip from the video game on YouTube:
A story about the photos on the Kremlin-controlled news outlet Sputnik has since been “corrected” multiple times, with the current version bearing a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Defence:
The Russian Defence Ministry said it is examining why a civilian employee attached the wrong photographs to the statement about the collusion between the US-led coalition and the Daesh terrorist group in the area of Abu Kamal town in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province.
The Russian government seems to be throwing some “civilian employee” under the bus for this, despite the fact that it seems like a difficult error to make. If you have highly sensitive intelligence, it would be pretty difficult to mix that up with some video game footage found online.
And it wasn’t just for American consumption. Russian TV ran with the images as well:
Russian state TV regurgitated the Defense Ministry’s videogame-based “evidence” that America is working with ISIS. pic.twitter.com/99JeuKfpVS
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) November 14, 2017
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has since updated their claims online to not include the video game images:
#RusMoD shows irrefutable evidence that US are actually covering ISIS combat units to recover their combat capabilities, redeploy, and use them to promote the American interests in the Middle East https://t.co/jcb7G4MAfZ pic.twitter.com/VIMjfFGJEg
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) November 14, 2017
This isn’t the first time that Russia has used footage of their fight against ISIS that wasn’t exactly what they claimed it was, either. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently showed American filmmaker Oliver Stone some footage on a phone that he claimed was Russians fighting ISIS in Syria. In reality, the footage showed Americans fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009.
Vladimir Putin shows Oliver Stone footage he says displays Russian forces attacking ISIS in Syria (left) but the footage is actually American helicopters attacking Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009 (right)
There is without a doubt an intense disinformation war going on between Russia and the US as Russia seems determined to weaken America with any tactic at their disposal. But it’s much easier to debunk false information these days, thanks to the internet. Even if people like Oliver Stone and President Trump would prefer to take Putin’s word at every turn.
“Why would he fake it?” Stone asked incredulously when asked about the fake footage that appeared in his glowing documentary about Putin.
Yes, why indeed.