We live in a ‘post-truth’ era, or at least according to Oxford Dictionaries which named it ‘word of the year’ in its annual poll.
Facebook is getting intense scrutiny for failing to filter out fake news from the platform, forcing Mark Zuckerberg, after initial hesitation, to introduce a series of updates aimed at preventing the spread of hoaxes as well as false and misleading news.
We had a look at 2016’s most viral news stories that were also spectacularly fake:
Corona beer founder
It was the perfect feel-good story for 2016. After his death, the founder of Corona beer, Antonino Fernandez, generously leaves 200m euros (£169m; $208m) to the 80 residents of Cerezales, the Spanish village where he was born and raised.
Fernandez, who migrated to Mexico in 1949 when he was 32, died in August. He was 99 years old and a billionaire.
A host of British media outlets, including The Daily Mail, cited a report from the local paper Diario de Leon as the main source for the story. Others, including RT, The Independent, The Mirror and The Sun linked back to the Daily Telegraph, which later deleted the article.
However, to the major disappointment of basically everyone, the story turned out to be untrue. The Fundación Cerezales Antonino y Cinia, a cultural and contemporary art center established by Fernandez, categorically denied these reports after Mashable reached out.
"I can confirm he didn’t leave money to his villagers in his will," Lucia Alajos, the Foundation’s communications chief told Mashable.
"His family recently opened his will and we actually don’t know who got the money from the inheritance. But it’s definitely not the town or his neighbours. "Some family members have a house in the village, but they don’t live there. They just come during the holidays."
Keeps shattering our dreams, 2016.
Facebook lives from space
A Facebook Live showing a live feed of the International Space Station (ISS) went viral on social media, though doubts over its authenticity were immediately evident.
The footage was posted by several media outlets including UNILAD, Viral USA and INTERESTINATE, gathering an insane amount of views and likes.
Viral USA’s Facebook broadcast went on for three hours and got more than 2 million likes, 400k shares and 280k views. High figures were also recorded by UNILAD, which tagged the International Space Station in the caption.
However, there was no mention of the live stream on the official NASA website or Facebook page. And the video being streamed looked remarkably similar to one from 2013 showing ISS Expedition 38 with Russian astronauts Oleg Kotov & Sergei Ryazanski with the Olympic torch for Sochi winter games
Eventually, a NASA spokesman confirmed to Mashable what many were already thinking. There was no spacewalk being conducted outside the International Space Station that day.
Images of what appeared to be the heartbreak of a kangaroo losing a loved one captured people’s imaginations. Photographer Evan Switzer, quoted by The Daily Mail, shot these photographs while walking his dog in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia.
“I saw the male pick up the female, he looked like he was just trying to get her up and see what was wrong with her,” Switzer said. “He would lift her up and she wouldn’t stand, she’d just fall to the ground, he’d nudge her, stand beside her … it was a pretty special thing, he was just mourning the loss of his mate.”
But all was not what it seemed. This tear-jerker of a scene was actually an act of necrophilia, according to veterinary experts.
Dr Mark Eldrige, the Principal Research Scientist of Terrestrial Vertebrates at the Australian Museum Research Institute, told Mashable Australia he believes the male kangaroo was actually attempting to mate with the dead female.
"The male has really wet forearms, which is what kangaroos do when they are excited or are overheating — they lick their forearms," Eldridge said. "Also if you look at those pictures, you can see he’s got an erection."
"I think people have looked at the [images] from an anthropomorphic point-of-view, and said ‘oh look at that, isn’t that sweet’ — whereas I suspect the male is telling the female to get up."
U.S. election result map
After the election of Donal Trump, a deluge of data and infographics populated social media in a desperate bid to explain his unexpected win.
Fake maps were also thrown into the mix. One of the most blatant examples which did the rounds on Facebook, allegedly compared the results of the 2016 US presidential election with the 2013 crime rate.
A quick reverse image search on Google shows the truth, as detailed by Snopes.com, a website dedicated to debunking online rumours.
The top map shows the Republican and Democratic majorities by county in the 2016 election — but it’s incomplete. The Washington Post has published a more detailed version that shows various shades of red and blue by county.
The one at the bottom, instead, shows a 2012 electoral map created by Mark Newman from the Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan:
Image: Mark newman
The Simpsons and Trump
The Simpsons are pretty good at predicting things. There’s actually a list of predictions they’ve made over the years.
For this reason, after the election of Donald Trump people started noticing uncanny parallels between real-life America and the cartoon:
However, The Simpsons did not predict Trump’s presidential win — or at least not in the way suggested by the tweet.
The cartoons are indeed from The Simpsons, but the date on the left-hand picture is wrong. The election chart on the right has been taken out of context.
First, the cartoons on the left aren’t from the year 2000; they’re from the following 2015 video shared in the aftermath of Trump announcing that he was running for president.
So where’s all this stuff about The Simpsons predicting Trump’s presidency coming from?
They were reportedly from the 2000 episode Bart to the Future, which did actually show a vision of a Trump presidency — it just didn’t contain any of the images from the tweet that’s gone viral.