Hoaxes are extremely annoying, frustrating and often disappointing, especially if you are one of the sorry suckers who fell for one. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to avoid them without the risk of becoming a cynical jerk who is skeptical about everything. And in this day and age, with the abundance of online tools and channels to assist in spreading a hoax, they are more evident than ever. Here are 10 Internet hoaxes that have fooled us already, and we're sure there will be many more to come.
The 9/11 Tourist Guy
This infamous photo was one of the earliest online hoaxes to send shockwaves through the world, as it played on America's unthinkable tragedy. In the weeks following September 11, 2001, this man's face was recognizable to almost anyone with a computer, as they undoubtedly received the photo in an email or saw it posted online, thinking it was real. Eventually, it was revealed to be a hoax, Photoshopped by a Hungarian tourist named Peter Guzli. Guzli claimed that the doctored photo was just meant to be a joke between a few friends, and he did not intend for it to spread and garner any publicity for him. On the 10th anniversary of the attack, he issued a public apology for what he did, saying he was ashamed and sorry.
McDonald's Marquee Sign
By now, most of us have heard about the controversy involving Chick-fil-A. And when there is controversy, you can almost guarantee someone will follow up with a hoax in an attempt to add fuel to the fire. Such is the case with these photos that started popping up online depicting fast-food chains like McDonald's and KFC apparently showing support for Chick-fil-A's stance against gay marriage. Before you get outraged like many others were when they saw this, rest assured it is a hoax. This image and similar images are the end result of people messing around with the online Fast Food Sign Generator app. (Snopes)
"Back to the Future" Day
People of all generations love the "Back to the Future" movies, yet nobody can seem to remember the date in the future to which Doc and Marty travel in the sequel. Internet pranksters take advantage of this, and every so often a doctored image of the date from the movie will appear, sending Facebook and Twitter users into a tizzy. This happened on June 27 of this year, and then again just two weeks later on July 11. But, as you can see in this video clip, we still have a few years to go until the real "Back to the Future" Day is here.
The lonelygirl15 videos started out seemingly as a normal YouTube video blog of a 16-year-old girl named Bree. However, after hitting the Web in June 2006, the narrative of Bree's videos soon became very bizarre, detailing incidents with her family that suggested they were involved in a cult. Then, in September 2006, it was revealed that the girl playing Bree in the videos was a 19-year-old actress named Jessica Rose, and that the whole thing was a hoax. Interestingly, the scripted Web series continued and was popular for two more years.
Shark Tank Collapse
It seems like every week on the Internet is Shark Week, with a steady stream of insane shark-attack stories or shark-sighting videos leading the viral news. But when this image made the rounds in June, people really went nuts. It was supposedly taken in a flooded shopping center in Kuwait where a shark tank had collapsed. Pretty scary, right? But of course, it was not real. The photo was legitimately of a flooded shopping center (in Toronto), but the sharks were added in for effect.
Did you know that if you simply like certain Facebook pages and get your friends to like them too, you can receive cool stuff for free? If you answered yes, you are a liar! These phony Facebook pages pop up all the time, promising free goods to those who follow the guidelines. However, they are all scams that will lead to survey sites or some other nonsense, and are just a waste of time.
The Onion iPod Charger
Chances are if you heard about this before you knew it was a hoax, you tried it, and were very frustrated when it didn't work. In 2007, the crew from Household Hacker made a video demonstrating how to charge your iPod with an onion and some Gatorade. It was very convincing and got a lot of press, but was proven to be a hoax by the gang from "Mythbusters" not long after.
Yuck. What is that thing? That's what people wanted to know when this unidentified dead creature washed up on a beach near the business district of Montauk, N.Y. in July 2008. Popular scientific belief is that it is the slightly decomposed and waterlogged body of a raccoon. However, because the carcass was never officially recovered or physically examined, it remains a mystery. The woman who took the photograph claims that a man took the body and put it in the woods of his backyard. So naturally, there is wide speculation that the whole thing is a hoax to be added to a list of similar proven hoaxes, like the discovery of Bigfoot's body or the skeleton of a mermaid.
Cartoon Character Profile Pics on Facebook Aid Pedophiles
One of the more bizarre Internet hoaxes is the curious case of the Facebook campaign to fight child abuse. Late in 2010, there was a movement to change your Facebook profile picture to that of your favorite cartoon character. The idea was to show online solidarity against child abuse. However, rumors started spreading that this was all actually the evil plot of a group of pedophiles who would use the movement to trick children into friending them online. As you can imagine, hysteria took over and the cartoon-images-for-profile-pics trend ended pretty quickly. However, it is almost certain that there was never any real danger here. Also, it was later discovered that the initial cause for using cartoon images was simply a fun game people started to eliminate actual human faces from Facebook for a week. It had nothing to do with child abuse at all.
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Celebrity Deaths on Twitter
Ever since Twitter was born, celebrities have been fake dying there. Celebrity deaths definitely make for front-page news, so we guess it makes sense that people seeking a viral thrill would create buzz by declaring so-and-so dead. We imagine it must be the same thrill compulsive liars get when they make up stuff for no reason. It's very strange, but it's part of the Twitterverse we live in. Here's a recent timeline of some notable death hoaxes on Twitter.