Several websites published false stories this week on a “new study” that purported to show women “retain and carry living DNA from every man with whom they have sexual intercourse.”
“That’s right ladies; the startling discovery was made by researchers at the University of Seattle and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre,” says an article published by the Deccan Chronicle, an English-language daily newspaper published in Hyderabad, India.
Several other sites including YourNewsWire.com and Information Nigeria published similar false stories with headlines like “Women absorb, retain the DNA of every man they have unprotected s*x with and they are genetically bonded forever – Report.”
In reality, the story is based on a study first published in PLOS ONE in 2012, by lead author William F. N. Chan, a biochemist at the University of Alberta.
As Snopes.com points out the study examined the brains of several women during an autopsy and demonstrated for the first time the presence of genetically distinct male cells.
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“The idea of two genetically distinct populations of cells, or their DNA, residing in one individual isn’t new. It’s called microchimerism,” PLOS ONE wrote in a blog post in 2012. “Medical chimerism arises after a transfusion or transplant, and it may follow pregnancy. Our microbiomes, the bacteria within us, are more like guests than body parts.”
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The study said that in addition to prior pregnancies, “male Mc could be acquired by a female from a recognized or vanished male twin, an older male sibling, or through non-irradiated blood transfusion.”
However, Yournewswire.com draws a very different and false conclusion.
“Every male you absorb spermatazoa from becomes a living part of you for life. The women autopsied in this study were elderly,” the article says. “Sperm is alive. It is living cells … Then it digs in. It enters your bloodstream and collects in your brain and spine.”
Here’s what else happened in the world of fake news this week:
- Twitter is toying with the idea of adding a feature that would allow users to identify tweets that are false or inaccurate, according to a report from the Washington Post. The Post reported the feature, which is still in development and may never be released, would let users to report a post as misleading, in the same way they can currently report individual tweets as spam or abusive.
- A story that began circulating on social media earlier this week reported that a baby had “miraculously” survived nearly two weeks after the Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed at least 80 people. This story of a “miracle baby” never happened. The story published by metro-uk.com, used the BBC breaking news graphic and was shared on Facebook more than 350,000 times. Facebook began rolling out a new tool against fake news which warns users when they try to post fake stories on the platform. The feature uses “third-party fact-checking organisations,” which include Snopes and the Associated Press.
- Time has asked the Trump Organization to remove fake covers of its magazine featuring U.S. President Donald Trump after it was revealed that the phoney issues were on display in at least five golf clubs owned by the president. The magazine also released tips on how to spot a fake cover which included careful examination of the logo, look for a red border (most knockoffs don’t have one) and the main image (most fakes lack artistic quality and creativity).
- A report from Quartz looks at how fake news is disrupting elections in Kenya. In one case voters were handed pamphlets which appeared to resemble the front page of the country’s largest newspaper and paper of record which said a candidate had defected to the country’s ruling party. The candidate mentioned in the fake story ultimately lost the primary election.
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- Donald Trump continued his war against “fake news” over a story CNN published, based on anonymous sources, which alleged that New York financier and Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci had ties to a Russian investment fund supposedly under investigation by the Senate. CNN said the story failed to undergo proper vetting procedures and was later retracted. Three journalists involved with the story resigned and the network apologized to Scaramucci.
- A story based on former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio’s conclusion that former president Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is a forgery has been shared by several conservative-leaning websites after a supposed Italian investigation found evidence to back up the claim. No evidence of this has been found. Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s citizenship. In 2012, they said Arpaio’s allegations are “untrue, misinformed, and misconstrue Hawaii law.”
- Whataburger, a Texas-based fast food chain, took to social media this week to quash a series of false stories claiming that it is filing for bankruptcy and all locations are to close by Aug. 1. The stories were published as a prank, but Whataburger posted messages on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday saying the article “is a hoax” and “we aren’t going anywhere.”
— With files from the Associated Press