10 Viral Stories That Turned Out to Be Hoaxes

2013 was deemed as the year of Internet hoaxes – in fact, you might have fallen for a few, like the gay waitress who wasn’t tipped because of her lifestyle. American football player Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend probably made you weep a little until you found out she was imaginary. Speaking of which, bet you thought that the sky was falling when it snowed in Egypt.

One after another, each were proven untrue, which eventually led to 2014 turning into the year of debunking hoaxes. In this post, we will be looking at 10 such viral stories that were eventually revealed to be hoaxes.

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1. Doncha wish You look Just like Kim

It is not uncommon for hardcore fans of a a celebrity to try to look like their idol but when it is forced upon and turned into a law, the media sits up and pay attention. In this story, North Korean male students are required by law to get the same haircut as their esteemed leader Kim Jong-Un because in order to worship your great leader, you should look exactly like him.


Image source: Huffington Post

In truth though, while there is a list of sanctioned haircuts for both men and women in the great country of North Korea, these haircuts are not heavily enforced. And no, ‘The Kim’ cut isn’t included in the list of haircuts you are allowed to have there. Tourists who have returned from North Korea also did not find other Kim Jong-Uns running around. But even if they did, it is probably a non-enforced passing trend or a display of loyalty by hardcore fans, which we know he has a lot of.


2. You can’t sit in KFC with us

By now, you should have seen or heard about Victoria Wilcher. Here’s what she looks like, if you haven’t:


Image source: Daily Mail

The scars you see on her face were results from an attack by the three-year-old’s grandfather’s pitbulls. It left her with complications such as paralysis on the right side of the face, and having to depend on a feeding tube to eat. One day, her grandma entered a KFC outlet to get mash potatoes only to be turned out of the place by management because Victoria’s injuries were making the other customers uneasy.

This understandably caused an uproar which prompted KFC to launch an investigation into the incident – and what they found was that the incident never happened. The scene of the crime wasn’t operational yet, and the Wilchers were not found on any of the CCTV footage; their order of sweet tea and mashed potatoes did not turn up on any of the orders and they found that the place is actually near a hospital where patients of injuries would be a normal sight, than not.

Despite all this, the Wilchers are standing by their story but took the Facebook support page for Victoria down. Perhaps as a sign of good will, KFC announced that they are honoring their $30,000 pledge to Victoria’s fund to aid in her recovery.

3. No alcohol for you till you’re 25

If you are worrying that you need to wait longer than 21 to get your taste of booze, legally in the US, because someone reported that this is happening starting August 2014, here’s some good news you can toast to. In news ‘reports’ like this, where you got the report from is very important.

As in this case, the new 25-year old limit was reported from Sunday Times Daily, which only exists for the sad, sole purpose of generating fake "news". When you view a piece of “news” on the site, it’ll display a “You’ve been fooled!” message after you’re done reading. Unless of course, you just read someone’s rant on Twitter on how they can’t legally drink when they turn 21 this weekend.

Always check your sources, kid!


4. And yet another celebrity dies

I am half convinced that celebrities have nine lives or have discovered the elixir to eternal life. If not, how does that explain why one fine day they reportedly drop dead but are snapped shopping the following day, very much alive? Celebrities have to take to Twitter or other channels to declare, "Nope, still here."

While some cases are apparent hoaxes, at other times, Twitter is overly fond of burying celebrities 6 feet under well before their time, as in the case of the mistaken death of Cher, because of a hashtag known as #NowThatchersDead. This is a case when it is important to be sensitive to lower and upper cases.

Aside from reading hashtags (carefully!), it is important to scrutinize any trending news of a dead celebrity on Twitter. When in doubt, go to the celeb’s official social media account (no, Morgan Freeman’s Facebook memorial page does not count) or consider more traditional means of confirmation: actual news sites. We don’t want another mistaken death in our hands or even discounting a real celebrity death like Fast and Furious star, Paul Walker’s.


5. Off to the dogs!

In another installment of weird news from North Korea, Kim Jong-Un was reported to have sentenced his second-in-command (and uncle) to death; death by dogs, to be precise. Jang Song-Thaek was reportedly torn apart by a pack of ravenous dogs in one of the world’s most horrific execution style of this modern world. Only, it didnt happen.


Image source: The Guardian

Turns out the news was a direct translation, word-for-word from a Chinese satirical account, courtesy of Chinese tabloid Wen Wei Po, before it was picked up by Singapore media and spread to Western media. Language barriers are tricky but we can all agree that it is safe to discount news from trashy tabloids.

Granted that confirming news from North Korea is difficult but if South Korea, who is usually privy to its neighbour’s ongoings, didn’t report on this, all the other journalists should probably double check their sources.

6. The athlete who cried wolf

Sochi Winter Olympics was beset with problems like incomplete construction, not-yet-fully-functioning facilities, and a stray dog problem. US luger Kate Hansen topped all that when she tweeted about a wolf prowling outside her hotel corridor. Twitter and the rest of US media understandably freaked out.

By now, you should know that this is definitely a hoax, and you’d be right, especially if you think that this is a a hoax conjured up by TV host Jimmy Kimmel, notorious for a wide variety of pranks such as the twerking woman who caught fire.

7. China is deprived of sunrises

Beijing’s pollution is a reputation that the great city finds hard to shake off, so when the news story about televised sunrises on gigantic screens around the city, as a reprieve for those who miss the Sun came about, we share a collected "oh, you poor things" reaction, because we are suckers.


Image source: Tech In Asia

While there’s no denying that Beijing’s air is widely considered a health hazard, the virtual sunrises are just… pictures. The photos you see circulating around the Internet were taken at a very specific moment, right when the screens pan over the sunrise clip in an advert. Yes, despite the photographic evidence, what you see there is an advert (there is even a logo of the advert if you look close enough). Don’t be so quick to judge China just because it’s China.

8. Passport picasso art

A Chinese man was reportedly trapped in immigration nightmare, in South Korea because his 4-year-old son doodled on his passport, rendering it useless, and the poor man passport-less.


Now, this one is actually easy to debunk. One, normally with identification documents, details are blurred out, while in this particular masterpiece, everything is out in the open, just conveniently scribbled over by a very discerning artist (despite his age). A writer from Kotaku.com also noted that kids that age do not display the artistic dexterity depicted by the doodles here. There are also no smudging, and the lines are too uniformed, not to mention the doodles in the far right are actually floating off the passport.

9. Japan riding the Pokemon plane

Previously we wrote about how the Japanese football team adopted Pikachu as their mascot for the World Cup. So what could be more perfect (and cute) if the national team were to show up in Brazil on a Pokemon plane?

Sadly though, in reality, the Pokemon planes may have existed but had been retired on September 2013. This newsbit is spread all over Twitter by an unofficial FIFA World Cup Twitter account and eventually our good friends at Kotaku did a quick Internet search and found that Japan flew on a sadly non-Pokemon emblazoned plane.

10. Diane, you rude

This is too epic to not include here although it was last year’s story. During Thanksgiving season, reality TV producer Elan Gale tweeted about an exchange with a very rude airplane passenger. The lady passenger was apparently upset with the flight attendants because of her delayed flight. Gale decided to engage in a war with the woman, Diane, mid-flight, and offered a play-by-play of the incident, all on Twitter.

The whole thing escalated and ended with the woman being arrested by airport security after having slapped Gale – news sites were quick to report the whole thing as it happened. And Gale finally announces that Diane… was made up and the whole thing was conjured up for everyone’s entertainment for Thanksgiving.

In his defence, Gale has been known to tweet jokes and fake live tweets before, and he was right when he said nobody bothered to to ask for clarification from him before running the story of the epic fight. That will teach you to trust a TV show producer.