But as morally bankrupt as it is, this kind of fake internet story is far from new. People have been spinning, twisting, or outright fabricating news online for ages. Here are some of the most fascinating fake stories on the internet, recent and otherwise.
1. Pizzagate: Cast your minds back to the far-off days of 2016, and recall the time when the Democratic Party was apparently running an underage sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington. It started as a “joke” on 4-chan in the days after Wikileaks released Clinton emails, and it spiraled into an enormous conspiracy theory that ended with a man actually showing up at the restaurant with a gun. There ended up being literally no evidence to support the theory.
2. Male Student Suspended For Pretending To Be Trans Woman To Go In Female Locker Room: Scaremongering fake stories about trans women assaulting cis women in public bathrooms are constantly going viral, and just as constantly being disproved. This most recent one is no exception. But if you want to hear about some stories of real transgender bathroom assault, a landmark study of over 27,000 trans Americans in 2016 showed that 60% of them had avoided public bathrooms out of fear of being assaulted themselves!
3. Cat Burglars: In stories that I absolutely wish were real, the World News Daily Report claimed last year that an 83-year-old Ohio woman had trained her 65 cats to steal valuables from her neighbors. In perhaps the best twist of the story, the mugshot was actually that of a Florida woman who allegedly shot at her neighbor after he refused to kiss her.
4. Black Lives Matter Activist Sued For Misusing Donations: Another day, another spurious accusation against BLM activists. According to outlet ReaganWasRight, “Marquesha Johnson” (not a real person) “solicited donations from vulnerable people to help others but instead used it to help herself.” Unfortunately for them, the database they linked to had no record of a Marquesha Johnson. But it’s only the latest in a series of fake or overstated accusations against BLM activists made by right-wing sites.
5. President Donald Trump Plans to End School Shootings By Banning Schools: Okay, so not only is this one wrong, it’s also lazy and stupid. It would be way funnier if the fake news story had claimed that the President wanted teachers to carry guns in schools, meaning that…oh wait, no, that one’s actually true. Carry on, then, fake-news-makers.
6. Man Sues Wife For Being Ugly: A 2004 story alleged that a man sued his wife for not telling him she had plastic surgery before they met, leading the couple to have ugly children. Amazingly, some prominent sites (the Huffington Post among them) didn’t bother to do the background check on the image to see that it is, in fact, a photo of Taiwanese model Heidi Yeh.
7. Australia Is Forcibly Vaccinating Its Citizens Via Chemtrails: Back in 2016, a story from YourNewsWire claimed that Australia was allowing pharma company PaxVax to load their “GMO vaccine” against cholera into the atmosphere. Spoiler alert: no, they were not. And while we’re on the subject? Vaccines don’t cause autism, either.
8. Funny True Stories That Weren’t Either: Seriously, fake viral content has been around since before Facebook was anything more than a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. The following set of fake stories, off a chain email from 1998, are as untrue as they’re unfunny.