On the lookout: Five social media hoaxes that went viral in 2012


As if we needed any reminder, as we countdown to the End of Days,€”and stock our “€œdoomsday”€ bunkers with non-perishable food items, bottled water and a lifelong supply of batteries, €”there’€™s no such thing as baby-snatching golden eagles.

The internet’€™s most recent tomfoolery gone viral soared into many of our Facebook news feeds and Twitter timelines Wednesday morning, feeding our friends and followers to the latest social media prank. The video had nearly 17 million views on YouTube by Thursday morning.

Admittedly, I was among the many to share the video, €”despite some glaring signs of illegitimacy, such as the nonchalant, “€œOh shit”€ as the baby gets scooped up, or the sheer fact that the chances of this ever happening, let alone in a city like Montreal, are slim to none, right?

According to bird expert Kenn Kaufman, the “€œgolden eagle is a scarce visitor in the Montreal area, but the bird in the video is not a golden eagle, nor anything else that occurs in the wild in North America. This was clearly a setup.”€

The CBC later reported that the feathered kidnapper was in fact created by students at Montreal’€™s 3D technology school, Centre NAD.

And that’€™s that. Yet I (I mean, we) should have known better. Then again, these social media firestorms happen far too often. Sadly, this type of misinformation is churned up during natural disasters or even during the horrific events that took place last week in Newtown, Conn.

As the story unfolded, news outlets referenced the Facebook page of Ryan Lanza, the name initially linked to the brutal murders. Those with the same name were also thrust into the unwelcoming spotlight on Facebook and Twitter. Authorities warned that those spreading false details about the shooting were subject to arrest, according to CNN.

On a lighter note, however, there has been a fair share of Twitter and Facebook rumors that have spread like wildfire long before they were appropriately debunked. Therefore, it’€™s only fitting that before we’€™re treated to false pictures of mammoth tsunamis, catastrophic meteor showers and countless natural disasters, we’€™re reminded of some of the most infamous social media hoaxes in recent memory.

1. Morgan Freeman’€™s “€œreal reasons”€

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, a throng of celebrities voiced their support via Facebook and Twitter for those adversely affected. Among other things, plenty expressed their concern about the number of unspeakable massacres that have taken place in the United States since the shooting at Columbine.

Faux Morgan Freeman got in on the act by chiding the media for its mishandling of several erroneous reports, while also citing America’€™s gun policies and mental health care as part of the problem.

Morgan Freeman Facebook Quote

Courtesy of inquisitr.com

The quote was subsequently reposted on Facebook and mentioned all over Twitter, even after a Freeman spokesperson released a statement refuting the comments. According to Inquisitr, the quote was originally posted by a Vancouver man on Facebook and then attributed to Freeman as a joke.

Like Abraham Lincoln once said: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

2. The $1 million Facebook share

When the record Powerball Jackpot reached more than $587 million, a frenzy of millionaire hopefuls headed to their local convenient stores to play the lottery. After it was announced that two people, €”one in Arizona and the other in Missouri, €”had won and were going to split the massive prize, a couple of pranksters decided they would trick Facebookers into a shot at claiming a $1 million share of their own.

Nolan Daniels and Sokhavy Hilton both took to Facebook to post pictures each boasting one of the winning tickets, soliciting shares by offering one random person $1 million.

Daniels’€™ post garnered nearly two million shares and 60,000 likes, while Hilton’€™s picked up merely 310,000. Nonetheless, that’€™s a lot of stupid people. Both photos were poorly photoshopped, with the winning numbers modified on the tickets. According to CNN, Daniels’€™ post may be the most shared item ever on Facebook.

Some people are just desperate, I guess.

3. Countless Hurricane Sandy photos

After Hurricane Sandy unleashed her wrath along the Atlantic coast, including the most populated region in the United States, our Facebook and Twitter feeds were inundated with countless, eye-popping photos, €”from underwater airport runways, to stray seals and wandering sharks pictured in flooded New Jersey suburbs. Unfortunately, there were plenty of images that were photoshopped and did not accurately depict the result of the storm. Among the most common images was one of the Statue of Liberty with menacing storm clouds over it, however, those clouds were photoshopped from a storm nearly a decade earlier. While there were tons of images that accurately portrayed the devastation, there were countless more that simply were not true.

4. Facebook privacy statement

In November, a few of my friends on Facebook attached a pointless copyright notice in a misguided effort to protect their privacy rights on the now publicly traded social network. By posting the rather long statement, the contents of your profile were deemed “€œprivate and legally privileged and confidential information,”€ thus making the violation of such personal and private information to be “€œpunishable by law.”€

As stated by popular rumor-debunking site Snopes, “€œFacebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their accounts nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls.”€

Facebook then issued a statement that basically said Facebook users own and control the content that they post via their privacy settings, which has always been the case for the social media site.

5. Kara Alongi “€œkidnapped”€ on Twitter

Instead of discussing the multitude of celebrity death hoaxes that spread on Twitter and Facebook, €”such as that of Bill Cosby, Adele and, of course, Morgan Freeman, €”there was more bizarre and believable ruse that sent local police in New Jersey on a wild goose chase for an apparent missing teenager.

Kara Alongi Hoax Tweet


Kara Alongi, a 16-year-old from Clark New Jersey, posted the Tweet pictured above, igniting a frantic search for the supposed abducted teen. Soon after the hashtag #HelpFindKara was circulating on Twitter to assist in the search.

Police, however, revealed that the teen was presumed on the run and not the victim of the abduction after authorities found that she had called a cab around the time the cryptic Tweet was sent and nearby surveillance cameras spotted her waiting at a New Jersey train station. Two days later, the teen called police roughly 100 miles from home and she was then reunited with her family, according to the L.A. Times.

Alongi, though, faced “€œpossible charges”€ for stirring up such commotion. This type of nonsense is what makes Twitter dangerously powerful. Without any type of context, how are we supposed to determine what’€™s legitimate and what isn’€™t?

What are your favorite social media hoaxes of the year? Feel free to tell us in a comment below.

About The Author:Brandon Koch
Brandon Koch is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Mainstreethost, a digital marketing agency in Buffalo, N.Y. He writes about a variety of topics, including content marketing, social media, sports and more. Connect with Brandon: Google+ | Twitter | Linkedin