The Zombie Fortress, a CN Tower in Germany, and other things that were fake online this week

"Seems fake to me..." - Every journalist ever. Screengrab, YouTube

Working in the online world can be a bit of a minefield — the web is full of fakes, frauds and hoaxes. Sorting through them all can be equally frustrating and entertaining. Global News spends a lot of time verifying online material, as do sites like Emergent and Storyful (some of even read through reams of documents, like the Verification Handbook, explaining how).

What better thing to write a weekly column about?

Here’s this week in fakes:

Monday: Zombie fortress

This week started off well enough with a rather obvious gag: the zombie fortress.

Jan Oliehoek, Deviant Art.

The image is a number of years old but was picked up again this week on Twitter.

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A quick Google Image search brings up references to “Dublin Castle,” but even that is wrong. It’s actually Lichtenstein Castle near Baden-Württemberg, Germany, seen here:

W. Hornung/Tübingen via Getty Images
W. Hornung/Tübingen via Getty Images.

Mix that in with Khao Phing Kan islands off the coast of Thailand…

Peter Bischoff, Getty Images
Peter Bischoff, Getty Images. Peter Bischoff, Getty Images

And there you have it: fake.

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Tuesday: It’s baaaack…

Proving that everything old is new again was this fake video of surfers in the Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia that won’t seem to go away.

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First seen online in 2012 after a storm in the city, the video makes a comeback every time Sydney sees foul weather (which it did on Tuesday).

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Storyful, an online verification service, debunked it three years ago. It questioned the rocks seen near the Opera House, which don’t seem to exist in satellite imagery.

(The smudge in the water is a boat.)

The surrounding landmarks and the depth of the water would prevent waves from forming anyway, Storyful pointed out.

Wednesday: Oh @Canada

This one isn’t a fake per se, but rather an official tweet that confused Canadians, including those in the Global newsroom.

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It also likely didn’t help the perception that the Canadian government doesn’t care about Toronto. This is a building in Berlin.

And yes, the tweet was probably a modified tweet sent from the World Economic Forum’s account…

…but the unfortunate likeness to the the CN Tower in the images set Canadian users off.

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Thursday: ‘Go viral’

Thursday saw a Canadian-created hoax — that was even labelled ‘verfied’ by Reddit at one point – debunked by gaming website Kotaku.

It all started with a media studies class assignment at the University of Guelph to “go viral.”

So student Taylor Clysdale went to Reddit, and claimed to be a former Microsoft employee with information on a game called Conker that would be remade, as well as some other inside info.

The site asked for verification, so he printed out a fake document, complete with a fake signature…

Screenshot, Kotaku.

… and sent it off. Reddit responded with a verification sticker (which has since been removed, and replaced with a sticker saying ‘fake info’ to boot).

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The Zombie Fortress, a CN Tower in Germany, and other things that were fake online this week - image

Kotaku was playing it safe at that point, and tracked down the professor from the University of Guelph, Stuart Robertson, who confirmed (with a laugh), the story was true.


An Italian bank called Intesa Sanpaolo SpA saw its shares plummet on Friday, all because of a hoax.

Screengrab from Google.
Screengrab from Google.

Right before that precipitous drop at 3:55, Bloomberg reported a fake release was sent via email stating that CEO Carlo Messina was stepping down.

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“The false communication, sent by e-mail, linked to a site registered on April 2 through a hosting company in South Africa. The mobile phone number listed for the individual named as the registrant for the domain doesn’t exist,” Bloomberg said.

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