18 Viral Photos And Videos From 2018 That Were Totally Fake

18 Viral Photos And Videos From 2018 That Were Totally Fake

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to take a look at the most popular fake photos, quotes, and videos that were circulating on the internet throughout the year. And what a year it was for fakes.

This isn’t our first rodeo. We did similar round-ups in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, and have been debunking fake news for years.

But if it feels like the word “fake” has lost its meaning, you’re not alone. President Donald Trump launched a concerted effort to attack the “fake news” in what he admits is a weaponisation of the word for his own purposes.

Oddly enough, we actually debunked far fewer things than usual this year. Because even though there were more fakes than ever, people simply became numb to the constant fact-checking. Again, that’s the whole point for people like President Trump, who are lying constantly.

So without further ado, we have 18 viral photos, quotes, and videos from 2018 that were totally fake. Enjoy. (Or despair, as it were.)

An artist’s depiction of Cassini’s last moment, created by NASA (Illustration: NASA)

1) Is this the Cassini space probe before it crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere?

Have you seen this photo, supposedly showing the last image captured by the Cassini space probe before it crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere? It’s beautiful. But unfortunately, it’s also totally fake.

The image was doing the rounds this year, racking up tens of thousands of views and retweets on social media. But the image was created using computer graphics.

Some people have confused the image for a real photo simply because it appeared on the NASA website, but the description of the image makes it clear that it’s just an artist’s depiction:

This artist’s concept shows an over-the-shoulder view of Cassini making one of its Grand Finale dives over Saturn.

The Cassini probe was a joint project between NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), and the Italian Space Agency and was launched on October 15, 1997. It took six years and 261 days to get to Saturn, and Cassini spent just shy of 20 years in space. The “Grand Finale,” which is what the artist was depicting in the illustration above, involved risky passes in between the planet and its famous rings.

The last image captured by the Cassini probe in 2017 (Photo: NASA)

So, what was Cassini’s real last image? It was taken on September 14, 2017, at a distance of roughly 394,000 miles (634,000 kilometers) from Saturn’s surface. That image is above.

From NASA’s description:

This location — the site of Cassini’s atmospheric entry — was at this time on the night side of the planet, but would rotate into daylight by the time Cassini made its final dive into Saturn’s upper atmosphere, ending its remarkable 13-year exploration of Saturn.

It’s not quite as fantastical as the artist’s vision for the probe, but it was cool nonetheless.


Photo: Getty

2) Does President Trump actually watch something called the Gorilla Channel?

No, President Trump doesn’t watch something called the Gorilla Channel. At least not yet.

Twitter user PixelatedBoat is an Australian cartoonist perhaps best known on social media for coining the term Milkshake Duck. The humorist tweeted out a joke back in January that purported to show an excerpt from the new book about President Trump. And some people thought it was real.

It’s an absurd story about President Trump believing that there’s a thing called the Gorilla Channel. And PixelatedBoat ups the ante with each paragraph to the point where not only has Trump’s staff constructed a special TV tower to deliver this fake channel, the fictional Trump is bored with it because the gorillas aren’t fighting.

The joke finishes by making the story even more preposterous, as Trump’s imagined staffers cut the gorilla footage down to just the fighting and Trump talks to the TV, believing that they can hear him.

Again, it’s outlandishly over the top. But it’s just believable enough that people like New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo and Hashtag Resistance conspiracy theorist Eric Garland thought it might be real.

In a followup tweet, Manjoo wrote that people shouldn’t tweet out jokes like this because they’re too often stripped of context and spread fake news.

And while I’m somewhat sympathetic to this line of thinking, strict adherence to it would mean that nobody would ever get to joke about anything again.

Yes, fake screenshots are often stripped of context and get passed around as real, but much of it is an indictment of just how absurd our reality has become. People believe that Trump might demand a dedicated Gorilla Channel because it’s honestly not that much more ridiculous than anything else about politics in 2018.

3) Can retweeting this tweet help you win millions?

Have you seen this viral tweet? It looks like it’s from Shane Missler, a 20-year-old lottery winner in Florida, and he’s promising $US5,000 ($7,091) to every person who retweets the account. But it’s 100 per cent fake.

The fake tweet reads: “Hey guys! I am the lottery winner of $US451 ($640) Million. With this incredible opportunity I am giving back $US5,000 ($7,091) to the first 50k followers that retweet and like this post. This is to much money and I love helping people!”

Unfortunately for the people who are retweeting, liking, and following that account, the entire thing is one giant hoax.

In real life, Missler did win $US451 ($640) million and opted to take the lump sum payment, which comes to roughly $US211 ($299) million after taxes. But he’s not giving away money for free on Twitter.

The photo being used in the viral fake account is from Missler’s real Facebook page, but it’s not him. Missler’s real Twitter account is @TheShaneMissler, which was started in February of 2016.

The fake account was created not long after that.

Missler did say in a statement that he hopes to “do some good for humanity,” but that doesn’t mean giving away his Mega Millions winnings to random strangers on Twitter $US5,000 ($7,091) at a time.

“I intend to take care of my family, have some fun along the way, and cement a path for financial success so that I can leave a legacy far into the future,” Missler said in a statement.

“I have always been one to encourage the idea of chasing dreams and I believe life is about the pursuit of passion. I am 20 years old and my journey has only just begun.”

A lot of different fake Shane Missler accounts have sprung up, each offering different amounts (this one promises $US1,000 ($1,418) per retweet and follow) but they’re too good to be true.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as the old saying goes. Nor is there anything to gain from retweeting fake lottery winners.

Imagine the logistics of handing out that money. How would you even give 50,000 different people money? If anyone really wanted to actually distribute money that way, they’d go crazy just trying to juggle the DMs alone.

4) Is this Andrew McCabe being escorted out of the FBI?

Have you seen this photo of Andrew McCabe allegedly being escorted out of the FBI building by security? It’s become a popular meme for Trump supporters on social media after McCabe announced he was stepping down as Deputy Director of the FBI.

But the image isn’t quite what it seems. The photo is actually from December of 2017.

The photo was taken on December 21, 2017, as you can see from the info provided at Getty Images. But that hasn’t stopped people on Facebook and Twitter from sharing the image as proof that McCabe had to do a “perp walk” out of the FBI.

McCabe was expected to retire this spring, but announced in January that he’d be stepping down early. McCabe’s former boss, James Comey, was fired back in May of 2017 because President Trump didn’t like that Comey was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

And Trump has considered McCabe a loyalist to Comey. President Trump even reportedly ridiculed McCabe by calling him a “loser” in a phone call shortly after Comey was fired.

But that didn’t stop Trump supporters—who commonly refer to themselves online as “deplorables” with screen names like Deplorable Susie—from claiming that McCabe the photo shows him being removed for some imagined wrongdoing.

What’s actually happening in the photo? The cops pictured are there for McCabe’s protection, not because he’s doing a perp walk. McCabe was heading to testify in front of a Congressional Committee.

The Getty Images description for the image says it all:

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 21: Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (C) is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police before a meeting with members of the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees in the Rayburn House Office Building December 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee for ten hours on Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

MCabe’s testimony included the fact that former FBI Director Comey told McCabe about how President Trump had asked for a loyalty oath before he was fired. Despite President Trump’s clear attempt to obstruct justice, Republicans are angry at McCabe because they believe he mishandled the Clinton email investigation.


The photo is even being shared by people from “respectable” conservative news outlets like Newsmax. Well, as respectable as any outlet that’s trying to revive Bill O’Reilly’s career can be, I guess.

James Hirsen, the author of such columns as “Trump’s Tweets Keep Us Safe” and “Mueller, Rosenstein Must Withdraw From Russia Probe,” tweeted out this image in February as evidence that McCabe did something wrong.

Other versions of the photo have also did the rounds, but they’re from the exact same day back in December of 2017. As you might expect, the tweets still include plenty of hashtags like #RedPill, #DeepState, and #HillaryForPrison.

So there you have it. The photo is fake news, as some might say. But if you expect people like James Hirsen to make a correction, don’t hold your breath. This is a guy who spent most of December defending the paedophile Roy Moore. Remember him?

5) Is this footage from the war in Syria?

Russian state TV aired a short video clip back in February that was supposed to be from the brutal war in Syria. But it was actually from a video game called ARMA 3. And for some reason this seems to be happening again.

The BBC was the first English-language news site to spot this latest story after it went viral on Pikabu, a website kind of like Russia’s version of Reddit.

The video game footage, which lasts for just a second, reportedly appeared in a segment on Kremlin-controlled Channel One TV honouring a soldier slain in Syria.

You can watch a short clip from the news segment here, but the entire episode is also on YouTube.

Russian media, president Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s Foreign Ministry have repeatedly used fake footage from video games for propaganda purposes. And it’s getting harder and harder to understand why. There’s more than enough real footage of war out there. The internet is awash in it.

So why use footage from video games?

Is it just because footage from video games actually looks more “real” in a way, as it’s typically in colour and often gives the sniper’s-eye view? That could be the explanation for this instance, as you can see that the video game footage is arguably the most cinematic shots in the short clip.

Users on Pikabu were split on theories about why the video game footage was included in the news segment. Some said that perhaps it was just a wink to savvy gamers. While other people suggested it a cry for help from a video editor who was forced to include dishonest footage.

Whatever the cause, it doesn’t make Russian state media look very trustworthy at the moment. Especially after it’s happened so many times now.

ARMA 3 was first released in 2013 and is set in the futuristic world of 2030, where Russia and NATO forces square off. And given the trajectory of the New Cold War, that futuristic world could be closer than we think. Especially given the propaganda that’s coming out of both sides, whether it’s the Kremlin’s Channel One, or the White House’s own propaganda outlet, Fox News.

Though to be fair to Fox News, they haven’t used video game footage yet, as far as we know. That distinction goes to CNN. Yes, the most trusted name in news used footage back in December of 2016 from the game Fallout. CNN aired a computer terminal from the game as b-roll for a segment on Russian hacking.

Fake news, indeed.

[BBC and Pikabu and YouTube]

6) Is this Stephen Hawking protesting the Vietnam War?

Have you seen this photo of Stephen Hawking protesting the Vietnam War in 1968? It’s a powerful image, but it’s not actually Hawking. Gizmodo has confirmed with the National Portrait Gallery in London that it doesn’t actually know who the bespectacled man with canes might be.

“The National Portrait Gallery apologises that a sitter in a photograph taken at an anti-Vietnam War demonstration in London in October 1968 was previously mistakenly identified as Stephen Hawking,” a spokesperson at the National Portrait Gallery in London told Gizmodo.

“The photographer, Lewis Morley indicated that Hawking was in the image but the Gallery has since ascertained that this was incorrect.”

British-Pakastani activist and journalist Tariq Ali, who’s also featured in the photo, was the first to point out on his Facebook page that the image doesn’t actually show Hawking.

So how did so many people start to think that it was the famed scientist? The National Portrait Gallery in London sells prints of the photo on its website. The image for sale clearly lists the people in the photo, taken by Lewis Morley, as “Stephen Hawking; Tariq Ali; Vanessa Redgrave.”

But if we take a closer look at this photo it’s clearly not the same man. The unnamed man in the photo and Hawking may have similar glasses and a similar physique, but there are plenty of ways to tell them apart. As just one physical difference, the man in the Vietnam War protest photo has attached earlobes, while Stephen Hawking had detached earlobes.

To make things even more confusing, news outlets have also labelled the photo as Hawking, like the Guardian did in this photo gallery from 2013. The photographer, Lewis Morley, died in 2013.

The National Portrait Gallery in London told Gizmodo that it will update its website with the correct information and it eventually did.

7) Did Ricky Gervais really say that?

Julian Assange likes to boast that WikiLeaks has a “perfect record” of “accurate vetting.” But if Assange’s Twitter account is any indication, Assange can’t even spot a ridiculous parody of “edginess” when he sees it.

Rob Rousseau, a freelance writer from Montreal, created some fake Ricky Gervais quotes and posted them to Twitter back in March. They’re the kind of thing that a dull middle school student might find thought-provoking. Well, a dull middle school student and Julian Assange.

The WikiLeaks founder saw one of the fake Gervais quotes and posted it to his own Twitter account, apparently in earnest.

“It bothers me that the intelligence of animals is measured by how willing they are to obey the commands of a human,” the fake quote says. “Same goes for students in schools, innit?”

In reality, the graphic was made by Rousseau to show just how tired and unoriginal the entire Ricky Gervais schtick is. This “deep thought” was literally just scraped from Reddit.

Gizmodo reached out to Rousseau to ask him about what it feels like to have your own ridiculous parody of Gervais repurposed as some kind of profound truth.

“Like everyone, I find his ‘Do I offend you, yeah?’ persona to be incredibly irritating, so I thought it would be funny to make some fake standup shots using obnoxious, banal posts I found on some of the more edgelord subbreddits (/r/atheism, /r/Im14andthisisdeep mainly),” Rousseau told Gizmodo by email.

“I have no idea how it made its way to Assange, but he apparently finds Gervais’ comedy indistinguishable from edgy Tumblr content written by teenagers, which is amazing,” said Rousseau.

Rousseau made others, including one about how it makes more sense to idolize The Joker than it does to idolize Batman.

Again, Assange loves to brag about just how perfect he is when it comes to vetting the material he releases. But when you can’t spot an obvious parody, you might not be equipped with the best bullshit detector. Being able to sniff out bullshit is kind of important when you’re helping to swing elections and sow chaos at the highest levels of government.

Gizmodo has reached out to Assange on the off chance that he’s actually in on the joke. Is it possible that Assange understands that Rousseau is making fun of this “edgy” thinking? For what it’s worth, Rousseau doesn’t think Assange understands that the image is meant to make fun of Gervais and this immature way of understanding the world.

“There’s no way Assange is tweeting it ironically,” said Rousseau. “Look at the comments, his followers are like ‘Wow, so true’ etc.”

8) Is this our big buldgy president?

Have you seen this photo of President Donald Trump bursting out of his jacket? The US president is a large man, but he’s not quite that lumpy. The photo has been photoshopped.

The original photo, which you can see below, was taken by Tom Brenner for the New York Times. It shows President Trump arriving at the White House on Wednesday, April 4th. And as you can see, it’s been altered, however slightly.

Graphic: Photoshopped image of President Trump (left by Vic Berger) and original photo by Tom Brenner (right, New York Times

The original photo went viral on social media after people wondered what the hell the president was wearing. Some speculated that perhaps there was a gun on his left side. Others just wondered what kind of person wears a suit that’s so baggy.

But it didn’t take long for the internet’s visual jokesters and yuck-em-ups to push the image even further. They tweaked it just enough that it wasn’t clear if the photo was a fake at all. The manipulated photo, which has been flipped horizontally, was photoshopped by Vic Berger IV.

Berger is best known online as the guy who edits comedy videos for Super Deluxe.

“It’s really only 5% worse than the original,” Vic Berger IV told me over Twitter DM. “I don’t care if people believe it’s real. I hope they do. Trump is the only person that you can be as grotesque as you want with when poking fun at them. He is a despicable pig person and anything goes with him.”

And Berger didn’t stop there about America’s commander-in-chief.

“I hope Trump cries himself to bed at night at the thought of people believing this image is real. Don’t forget he’s the guy who ran a five year smear campaign claiming Obama wasn’t born in America. He has been credibly accused of sexually assaulting over fifteen women, caught on tape bragging about it and also claimed those women were ugly and wouldn’t have been his first choice. He claimed to not know who David Duke was. He spread a lie that Ted Cruz’s Dad killed JFK. He claimed millions of illegal immigrants voted for his opponent. He also proposed banning people from entering America based on their religion,” Berger continued.

“Fuck this guy. Who cares about a stupid photo that makes him look slightly more disgusting than he actually is?”

[Original photo via the New York Times]

9) Are these ducks really waiting for the light?

Have you seen this video of ducks in Germany waiting for a green light before they cross the street? It’s gone viral, getting tens of thousands of views on Twitter and over 2.5 million views on Facebook.

But the video is totally fake. The ducks are computer generated.

Don’t believe me? Take a closer look at the duck we’ve highlighted below. It’s clearly sliding around like a glitchy video game character from the early 2000s.

In fairness, it’s not easy to tell that the ducks are fake from the videos that are currently circulating on Twitter, which are simply too pixelated to see clearly. But if you watch the video on Facebook or YouTube, it’s blindingly obvious.

As the viral debunker account HoaxEye first pointed out on Twitter, the video looks to be the work of a German marketing company called Medien Saar. Why would they make the video? We still don’t know. Some people think it might be a “traffic education video,” but it’s still unclear.

If you ask me, it just looks like a video that was meant to go viral. Gizmodo has reached out to the marketing agency and will update this post if we hear back. Yes, it’s a cute video. But it’s definitely fake.

Screenshot from the Kremlin backed TV network Russia-1 on June 3, 2018 (left) Photo from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs showing Kim Jong Un and Sergey Lavrov on May 31, 2018 (right) (Screenshot: YouTube and Twitter)

10) What’s going on with Kim Jong Un’s face in this photo?

Russia-1 aired a segment back in June about Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. But one part of the news broadcast was pretty weird. Take a look at Kim’s face in the screenshot on the left. Kim has been photoshopped to look like he’s smiling. And it’s not even a very good photoshop job.

The strange photoshopped image aired on “News of the Week” with Dmitry Kiselyov on Russia-1, a popular TV news channel that’s backed by the Kremlin.

First spotted by Fake_MIDRF, a pro-Ukraine Twitter account that spots fakes in Russian media, you can really see the difference in the photo posted to Twitter by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, and the photo that was played on Russian TV, which is available on YouTube.

It’s unclear why Russia-1 would bother photoshopping the image, since they also aired plenty of positive footage showing Lavrov’s meeting in North Korea.

But this isn’t the first time that Kremlin media has aired fake news footage. Channel One (also Kremlin-backed) was ridiculed back in February for running video game footage during a news segment about the war in Syria.

President Trump met with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12th, and old alliances die hard. North Korea wants to be recognised as a real player on the world stage, and they’re getting precisely that. But countries like Russia and China don’t want North Korea to get too cosy with the U.S., not that there’s much likelihood of that anytime soon.

You can watch a short clip of the show here.

Russia wants its citizens to believe that countries like North Korea, an old friend from the Soviet-era days, would never abandon it to strike an alliance with western global powers – even if state-run media have to photoshop an awkward smile on Kim’s face to do it. But in the end it simply makes Russian media look less trustworthy when they’re caught manipulating photos.

It’s fake news, as the American president might say. Though with President Trump’s constant lies, American media can’t cast too many stones. Major news outlets are reluctant to call President Trump’s lies precisely that—lies. So he’ll continue to bulldoze the truth, even without the help of fancy photoshop jobs. (Or, not so fancy, in the case of Russia-1’s fake smile.)

The host of the program, Dmitry Kiselyov, just gave an interview to the Govorit Moskva radio station and denied that his show manipulated the photo of Kim in any way.

“They always photograph at high shutter speed. So you get various phases of facial expressions,” Kiselyov said, trying to explain why the photo might look so weird.

But all you need to do is look at the video from their photo-op last week. Yes, Kim was smiling at some point, but Kim is obviously not smiling when the head-on photo is taken.

You don’t really need to look at the original photo to tell that it’s fake, however. The photo that Kiselyov aired behind him yesterday is a really bad photoshop job. I mean, look at this thing….

Lying to the end, even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, really does seem to be in fashion these days. Perhaps America and Russia will indeed come together over shared values under President Trump and President Putin.

Long story short? Everything’s bad and nothing matters anymore, least of all the concept of objective truth.

President Trump shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a photo that some incorrectly claim shows alleged Russian spy Maria Butina (Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/ Flickr)

11) Does this photo show Maria Butina in the Oval Office?

Back in July, 29-year-old Russian national Maria Butina was arrested and charged with being an unregistered agent of the Russian government while trying to influence the 2016 presidential election. Ever since, people online have been combing through old photos of Butina posing with American politicians.

But one photo got a lot of attention immediately after she was arrested. It purports to show Butina just outside an Oval Office meeting with President Trump on May 10, 2017. The only problem? It’s almost certainly not her.

President Trump raised a lot of eyebrows back in May of 2017 when he fired FBI director James Comey and then invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak into the Oval Office. Photos from the meeting eventually leaked out because the White House banned American reporters, but allowed a Russian photographer inside. But was Butina there?

As you can see in the far right corner of the photo above, there’s a woman with red hair who looks a bit like Butina. But when you put photos of Butina next to photos of the woman in the White House, it’s clearly not her.

Left: Maria Butina in an April 21, 2013 photo from the Associated Press, Right: Unknown woman at the White House

A former White House staffer reportedly told The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay that the photo might show Cari Lutkins, the White House’s deputy director of events. But in our opinion, Lutkins doesn’t look that much like the woman in the photo. Buzzfeed News reports that a National Security Council source says that the woman is a NSC staffer, but the woman hasn’t been named.

So who really is the mystery woman? One thing that could potentially clear all of this up would be the White House visitor logs that are kept and were released during the previous administration. Unfortunately, the Trump regime stopped the practice of releasing visitor logs.

Yes, Butina did in fact ask President Trump a question about Russian sanctions at an event on July 11, 2015 during the presidential campaign.

And yes, countless other American politicians met with Butina as she was allegedly trying to establish a backchannel between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. And yes, the FBI says Butina did this by fostering a relationship with an unnamed “gun rights organisation” that sounds a lot like the NRA.

But no, that photo from the White House isn’t of her.

12) Why did the Governor of Texas tweet this?

Have you heard the famous Winston Churchill quote that “the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists”? Well, it’s a fake quote. Churchill never said it.

But that didn’t stop Texas Governor Greg Abbott from tweeting the fake quote. And while Abbott was rightly taken to task, the responses to his tweet are pretty funny.

There’s this one from Abraham Lincoln:

And this famous quote, also from Winston Churchill:

And who can forget when Winston Churchill said this:

There’s this one from Albert Einstein:

And another one from Abraham Lincoln:

There’s this quote from William Shakespeare:

And another famous one from Winston Churchill:

Man that guy really had a lot of great quotes.

There’s this famous and very real quote from Napoleon:

And this one from Thomas Jefferson:


And this one from Eleanor Roosevelt:

And finally, my personal favourite, from Gizmodo’s own Ed Cara, quoting Winston Churchill:


It has to be true. I saw it on the internet.

The first clue to Governor Abbott that it’s a fake quote probably should’ve been the 9gag watermark on the side of the image, of course. But we can’t let that get in the way of trying to call anti-fascists the real fascists. It’s a popular thing to do in Republican and neo-Nazi circles these days.

Texas politics reporter Lauren McGaughy from the Dallas News asked about the fake quote and Abbott doubled down.

“What I tweeted was a sentiment that I had, and that is antifa is dangerous to society and antifa is the antithesis of safety and security and they are antagonists to law enforcement as well as to other people,” Abbot said, according to McGaughy.

“It was irrelevant to me who may or may not have said that in the past. I didn’t want to be accused of plagiarism for saying it,” said Abbott. “If no one else said it, attribute the quote to me because it’s what I believe in.”

13) Is this robot real?

Have you seen this video of a very human-looking robot walking up a driveway? It’s gotten a lot of people online freaked out about the coming robot apocalypse. But you can rest easy… for now. This “robot” was created using computer graphics. As in, it’s totally fake.

The video was created using the Unity video game and animation engine, though it’s not immediately clear who can claim credit for this particular render. A designer named Maxim Sullivan appears to have been the first to upload this video to Twitter, though he has not yet responded to a request for comment from Gizmodo.

A version of the animated character previously appeared in a web series created by the Unity Demo team, the second and third episodes of which were produced by District 9 director Neill Blomkamp and Oats Studios using the Unity engine. The (free-to-download) robot model was made by Unity’s Swedish demo team for the short film “Adam.”

You can watch a behind-the-scenes video for the series on YouTube, but it doesn’t appear that he created this specific animation of a robot in a driveway.

Robots are indeed becoming more agile with each passing day. Boston Dynamics is perhaps the most famous of the Skynet summoners, with robots that can run, open doors, and even do back flips. But at least the robots of Boston Dynamics aren’t eating people.


14) Is this note from Judge Kavanaugh authentic?

Republicans came up with a lot of excuses for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attempted rape of a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. Some said it never actually happened. Others said he shouldn’t be held accountable for something he did as a teenager. But still others seemed to think that it was all just a big joke. The latter seemed to describe Donald Trump Jr., son of the current President of the United States.

Donald Trump Jr. posted a fake letter on Instagram to his 1.3 million followers back in September titled, “Judge Kavanaugh’s sexual assault letter found by Dems.” The letter, written in crayon, is in the style of something you might see an elementary school kid send to his crush, with “will you be my girlfriend” and boxes marked “yes” and “no.”

Needless to say, the letter is not real and has been posted elsewhere on social media.

Donald Trump Jr.’s fake letter about the incident includes a misspelling of “Feinstein,” laughing emojis, and the hashtag MAGA, which stands for Make America Great Again:

Oh boy… the Dems and their usual nonsense games really have him on the ropes now. Finestein had the letter in July and saved it for the eve of his vote… honorable as always. I believe this is a copy for full transparency. ???????????????????????????? #politics #maga

Kavanaugh had been accused of holding down Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and trying to rape her in the early 1980s. She even testified, but it did nothing to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the highest court in the land. The president himself has been accused of sexual assault on multiple occasions, including the rape of his ex-wife Ivana and a 13-year-old girl in 1994.

Comments on the Instagram post are as divided as the country is right now and includes messages of support like “HaHaHa!!! The Dems cried wolf one to [sic] many times with pushing fake things, that is why they will lose again and again.” and other messages of disgust, like “You are the worst person I could imagine and you look like you smell like garbage.”

It could not be confirmed by press time that Donald Trump Jr. smells like garbage.

15) What’s up with that video of President Donald Trump hissing like a snake?

Have you seen that viral video of President Donald Trump hissing? It’s really weird. But it makes more sense if you see the original video.

And after some sleuthing, we finally tracked it down.

Here’s the video, which went viral on Twitter and got picked up by news outlets like Boing Boing. President Trump almost seems possessed as he’s hissing like a snake. But it’s only because the video has been cut just before he says the words “thank you.”

The video has also been slowed down and a cat’s hissing noise has been added, along with questions about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to make the video seem like it was shot more recently than it actually was.

It’s a little less scary in context, I promise. A little less scary.

The original video was shot on December 5, 2017, and shows President Trump during a lunch with Republican members of the Senate like Jeff Flake. They’re discussing the Republican’s $US1.5 trillion tax bill, a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest Americans to the wealthiest Americans.

You can watch the full video at the White House’s YouTube page, but I’ve pulled the relevant portion below. This video is shot from the other side of the table, but you can see that it’s the same moment.

The original video was kind of hard to track down, as so many viral videos often are when they’ve been stripped of their original source and shared like this online. But I finally found the original by looking at a few big clues.

First, there was the fact that the president is clearly in the Roosevelt Room, based on the bison statue that’s behind him. The president is also wearing a red tie.

With that information, I manually searched the photo news wires for images of President Trump seated in the Roosevelt Room while wearing a red tie. I was then able to narrow down the potential dates pretty quickly and searched YouTube for news conferences in the Roosevelt Room until I struck gold.

President Trump … in the Roosevelt Room … wearing a red tie … hissing like a snake. It’s like the worst game of Clue ever. But at least we know the full context for this strange viral video now. And unlike President Baby Boy’s claims about the infamous Lester Holt interview, this video was actually “fudged.”

Why is everything just so weird all the time now? Just constantly never not weird.

16) Is this Justin Bieber eating a burrito strangely?

Did you see that photo of Justin Bieber eating a burrito like a corn cob? The photo went viral on Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of news sites. But we’ve got some bad news for you, or good news depending on how you look at it. The photo is totally fake.

The viral photo was actually staged by a group of YouTubers known as The Yes Theory using a Justin Bieber lookalike. The pranksters first planned a fake video of the Bieber impersonator helping an old woman across the street, but that one failed to go viral. They had better luck with their idea of Bieber eating a burrito like a weirdo.

The pranksters eventually published a YouTube video explaining how they did it, and it wasn’t a small enterprise. They actually flew a Justin Bieber lookalike from Canada to Los Angeles and meticulously studied the real Bieber’s look.

They made sure that the fake Bieber was wearing long pants and a sweatshirt because the real Bieber has quite a few tattoos. They even bought a wig to make the fake Bieber’s hair look closer to the real thing.

The explainer video is actually an interesting look at how to stage a viral prank. The pranksters tried to post the burrito photo to Reddit but were thwarted by the fact that they tried to post it on r/Pics, a huge community, and nobody noticed. But when they posted the image to a smaller sub, r/MildlyInfuriating, the photo finally made waves.

Paper magazine was one of the first mainstream publications to write about the photo and from there it spread everywhere from Cosmopolitan to Vanity Fair. It even reached highly respected mainstream news outlets like the BBC and plenty of morning news TV shows commented on Bieber’s burrito-eating techniques. The internet helped it spread, but this photo was basically made for light-hearted TV news shows.

The pranksters talked to a number of different news outlets and kept up the charade by pretending that they just happened to capture the image in a West Hollywood park. So it’s not like this was a simple misunderstanding. They deliberately set out to prank the internet and succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

But just as quickly as the photo went viral, it’s also being debunked with incredible speed. The question, of course, is how many people who saw the first photo will see the debunker.

Some people will no doubt be angry about the hoax, but all things considered, this was a pretty mild one. At least in the grand scheme of things.

The internet is filled with fake photos. But at least this one wasn’t an anti-semitic hoax about George Soros. You don’t even need the internet to see those anymore. The President himself is regularly shouting about that bullshit on Fox News.

17) Do these photos disprove the fires in Paris?

Did you see the tweets supposedly “debunking” the huge fires that were burning during the protests in Paris? In reality, the “debunkers” are bullshit.

The photos weren’t merely taken from different perspectives—they were taken on completely different days on completely different streets.

First take a look at the the bullshit “debunkers” with sarcastic titles like “Paris burns” and “perspective matters,” which have racked up tens of thousands of view online:

The suggestion, of course, is that these two photos show the same scene and news photographers are intentionally messing with the perspective to make the fire look bigger than it is. But nothing could be further from the truth.

AFP has posted a thread that shows the two photos used to “debunk” this narrative were taken at different times. As the AFP points out, the photo on the left was taken on December 1, 2018 by Karine Pierre, a news photographer at the Hans Lucas agency in France.

Photo from the website of Karine Pierre that’s being taken out of context by internet users to spread disinformation online (Screenshot: Karine Pierre)

But the photo on the right in all these tweets was taken on December 8, 2018, on a different street in Paris, by a photographer at the magazine Le Point.

It’s not clear who first posted these two photos together, nor is it clear whether they were just dumb or were intentionally deceitful. But the AFP has a great rundown on the two photos and expertly dissects why they’re actually different streets. The two photos seems like they could be from the same street, but in reality they’re not showing the same fire.

Don’t believe everything you see online. Even if it claims to be a “debunker.” Who will fact-check the fact-checkers? The AFP will, at least for now. And we’re glad they’re on the case.

[AFP Factcheck]

18) Is this a robot or a man in a robot suit?

Russian state TV apparently became confused recently while airing footage of a technology forum aimed at kids. A TV reporter proclaimed that Boris the robot, seen above, “has already learned to dance and he’s not that bad.”

The only problem? Boris isn’t a real robot. It’s just a man in a suit.

This “robot” actually retails for 250,000 rubles, as first reported by the Guardian, and is made by a company called Show Robots.

“Boris” features glowing eyes, and plastic parts—and shockingly human-like movements. Probably because he needs a human inside to operate properly.

This faux-robot (fauxbot?) mystery was actually first unravelled when some eagled-eyed Russian viewers on the internet noticed that a suspiciously human-like neck was showing in the video.

To be clear, there’s no indication that the organisers of the tech forum were trying to deceive anyone. This appears to be a case of a TV presenter getting confused with what he believed to be “modern robots.”

The broadcast, which is still available on Russia-24’s YouTube channel, is pretty funny, especially when you know what’s actually going on.

The organisers clearly meant this to be a fun attraction for kids. But it’s apparently getting harder and harder to tell the real thing from the fakes.

As we’ve pointed out before, robots like Atlas, made by Boston Dynamics, are doing backflips and jumping on top of tall boxes now. You can see how some people might get confused.

If all of this fake robot nonsense is giving you a case of deja vu, it might be because Russian TV unveiled a fake military “robot” this past summer.

Or it could be because so many other fake robots have been unveiled in the past 100 years. Take, for instance, the infamous Miss Honeywell robot from 1968.

It was billed as the “housewife of the future” and showed off the appliances of tomorrow at retail stores in the 1960s. But it was, of course, just a human in a shiny blue suit and weird sunglasses.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. At least until Skynet comes online. Any day, now. Any day…