‘BTW, the sun just exploded and we’re all about to die,’ and other things that were fake online this week

Is this a real raccoon with a death wish? Or some strange taxidermy performance art? . Imgur

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 Storyful (some 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’s edition of real and fake stuff on the web (and here’s even more fake stuff from the past month).

‘Sun has not exploded’

Since you’re reading this, we can definitively say that the sun did not explode earlier this week, incinerating all life on Earth. The Athens-Banner Herald on Tuesday had to make the embarrassing correction after “an unauthorized updated news item atop the site announced ‘the sun just exploded.’”

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‘BTW, the sun just exploded and we’re all about to die,’ and other things that were fake online this week - image

“We’re currently trying to determine what happened to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Joel Kight, Director of Digital of the Athens Banner-Herald.

“And to our knowledge, the sun has not exploded.”


Rocket Raccoon?

This unbelievable shot made the rounds this week of the moment a raccoon purportedly hitched a ride on the back of an alligator in a Florida swamp.

The incredible image was taken by Florida’s Richard Jones. Global News reached out to Jones for comment, but he did not respond.

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First to report was WFTV. Jones told the news outlet on Sunday he took the image in Ocala National Forest.

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Other outlets received the exact same email. But some were not sold. The Star-Banner published the story with the following comment:

Until now, the Star-Banner has declined to publish the photo because we still have questions about its authenticity. We have reached out to the photographer, a man named Rich Jones, but had not heard back from him as of 7:40 p.m.

You can see the picture for yourself. Here’s a summary of our concerns:

+Scope: The raccoon seems out of proportion

— too big — compared with the alligator.

+Feet: Even zooming in, you can’t tell whether the raccoon has feet.

+Tail: Don’t raccoons usually have longer, fluffier tails?

+Posture: That is an unusual pose for a raccoon. It almost looks like a taxidermy piece.

+Gator: The alligator’s eye has an odd color, shape and placement. Its body seems rubber-like.

+Mask: The raccoon’s mask seems like an add-on.

And of course Reddit picked the image apart (and likened the raccoon to Rocket Raccoon from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy). 

Experts weighed in and said while the behaviour was “unusual” for both animals it was technically possible that this incident could have taken place.

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“As for people questioning the photo, I doubt they’ve ever spent any time in the wilderness of Florida,” Jones told National Geographic. “Alligators and raccoons interact constantly, as do all of the animals in the swamp.”

“If it was real,” one state biologist told National Geographic, “it was definitely a once in a lifetime shot.”

Deep fried rat

On June 12, California man Devorise Dixon gave the Internet this:

He went to a KFC outlet in Compton, California, he said, and received a deep fried rat.

Then he claimed that a KFC manager admitted the following day that it was a rat:

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News outlets said they could not get in touch with Devorise. Neither could Global News.

On Facebook, Dixon said he was saving the “rat”:

KFC issued a statement to Global News several days later. “Recently, a customer questioned the quality of a KFC product, and this received considerable publicity given the sensational nature of his claim,” said spokesperson Rodrigo Coronel.

“The product has now been tested by a third-party independent lab, which confirmed it is definitely a piece of chicken, as we knew all along. The right thing for this customer to do is to apologize and cease making false claims about the KFC brand.”

The wrong Dylann Roof

Tragedy struck this week in Charleston, South Carolina when Dylann Roof entered a historical black church and killed nine people, reportedly saying he wanted to “kill black people.”

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Another man with a similar name (spelled differently) tried to get out in front of any confusion.

Dylan Roof did not respond to Global News when asked for comment.

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