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Us Vs Th3m: Did a bad typography choice mean Coca Cola invited French people to share it with their anus?


According to Twitter, Coca Cola’s suggestion that you to share their tasty beverage with your friends - or, as they say in France, “vos amis” - has gone a bit wrong, due to a rogue typography choice that makes it look like they’re inviting you to share it with your anus:

Here’s the original French tweet from early June:

But is it real? Let’s compare it with another picture of a French Coke bottle:


As you were.

Is that really a picture of India from space during Diwali?


It’s actually, as Simon Ricketts points out, a false-colour composite image of India, made up of images taken over the course of a decade. As the picture caption explains:

Satellite data from 2003 is coloured red, 1998 is coloured green and 1992 is blue. The three data sets are composited to form the image. Nighttime lights on the map that are white are lights that were present throughout the entire period. Areas that are marked by red have only appeared in 2003. Areas coloured green and blue were only present in 1998 and 1992 respectively but are no longer visible. This image was created by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, USA.

It should be noted that not only does this have the benefit of being true, it also makes the image much more awesome than something that just says “India does pretty colours sometimes”.

It’s also worth pointing out that the tweet above has over 14,000 retweets and 4,500+ favourites, and hasn’t had a follow-up correction. As a general rule, if you see a Twitter account that’s called something like “Mindblowing Facts”, it’s probably fairly safe to mentally substitute the words “Deluge of Bollocks” in place of the name.

Is that really a picture of Hurricane Sandy descending on New York?


It’s actually a picture from 2011, of a thunderstorm over Manhattan during a tornado alert (which turned out to be uneventful in the end, although the US and other countries were struck with an unusually high number of tornados that year). The original source appears to be this Wall Street Journal article, and the picture was taken through a tinted window by a finance professional called Charles Menjivar (from his workplace, most likely - his current employers are situated pretty much where this picture looks to be taken from).

It is traditional, when the US is menaced by a weather event, for people to tweet pictures of things that aren’t it. Generally they’re pictures of supercell thunderstorms, because they look way cool and a lot more threatening than actual hurricanes, which mostly just look sort of grey and wet and blurry unless you’re looking at them from above. Here are some of the more usual supercell picture suspects, which have previously been claimed to be hurricanes Isaac, Irene and (from the pre-Twitter days) Isabel, but weren’t. Keep a weather eye out for them.

UPDATE: Oh look, another one:

That, as Elliot Bentley points out, is actually a stock picture of the George Washington Bridge from 2009.

UPDATE UPDATE: Hey, you know who might want to stop tweeting pictures of “Sandy” without checking them? BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski (who’s normally a bit more reliable than this):

That second one is so fake (not just misattributed, it’s actually a Photoshopped picture of - naturally - a supercell thunderstorm) that it’s even on Snopes. (In his defence, he has corrected the latter one.)

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Another one getting retweeted all over the place (and even written up by The Washington Post, although they’ve since killed the link) is this one of soldiers standing guard over the Tomb of the Unkowns even as Sandy rages around them:

It’s also not true - the picture is from September, as the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (aka The Old Guard), the regiment that keeps watch over the Tomb, themselves tweeted:

The general claim, at least, has truth to it: the Old Guard are still maintaining their vigil at the Tomb, as the pictures they posted on Facebook show. (Thanks to Tom Mason for the tip.)


(That’s from the well-known cinéma vérité documentary The Day After Tomorrow, in case you hadn’t spotted it. Here’s what it actually looks like at the Statue of Liberty right now. It’s… a bit grey and blurry. And very noisy.)

UPDATE ^ 5: Special congratulations to BuzzFeed, who in their post debunking misattributed pictures that aren’t Sandy manage to misattribute the very first picture:

At this point, regular readers may already be saying “hey, that looks an awful lot like a supercell thunderstorm!” Yep. Once again, Snopes is already there.

UPDATE ^ 6: Ace work from Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, who’s doing the same thing but with the excellent idea of putting big FAKE/REAL graphics on the images so people can spread them on social media without worrying they’ll get taken out of context. Canny.

UPDATE ^ 7: SHARKS! There’s a bunch of pictures doing the rounds of sharks supposedly swimming around flooded streets. This one, we’re still unsure about (Alexis Madrigal is trying to track down the supposed photographer). It’s reportedly from Brigantine, New Jersey - if anybody recognises the street, holla:

But this one:

Is totally a fake. First page of image search results for “shark fin”, you get this - which, helpfully, has really distinctive markings:

In case you’re in any doubt, Alexis produced this nice overlay of the two (also available in GIF form in The Atlantic’s article). They’re identical:

While we’re on shark duty, be on the lookout for this one, which did the rounds following Irene, and is also a Photoshop job:

Oh, hey, there’s a surprise, it’s already going round again:

UPDATE ^ 8: Right, I’m calling it. That first shark pic is a fake. Probably.

Michael J. Faris alerts us to what’s been reported as the original source of the shark picture - this guy’s Facebook page. He gives his location as Brigantine, NJ; he’s also got lots of other pictures of the flooding there. And he has the shark picture.

But he also has the second shark picture - the one we know is definitely a fake. And he keeps insisting it’s real, while his friends in the comments congratulate him on his Photoshop skills. And, in what my finely honed internet detective skills suggest could possibly be the giveaway comment beneath the first shark picture, one of his friends says “That’s the leopard shark from la jolla cove nice try kevO”. So, yeah. Fakety fakety fake.

UPDATE ^ 9: Might go to sleep now. Please keep following Alexis Madrigal’s post over at The Atlantic, which is still being updated. It has now attained epic length, and features a seal.

MORNING: A nice easy sharky one to wake up to:

That’s a pretty well-known Photoshop job that goes back to the flooding of a Toronto’s Union Station on June 1 this year (it subsequently got passed around as “the collapse of the shark tank at a scientific centre in Kuwait”).

Also, someone helpfully seems to have collated lots of fake shark pictures into a single tweet that gathers all the wrongness into one place:

DAY 2: Let’s have some pictures that are real, shall we?

That picture of the construction works at Ground Zero flooding is definitely real, and is likely to become one of the iconic images from Sandy - it was taken by John Minchillo, a photographer with the Associated Press. So, shamelessly jacking The Atlantic’s verification style:

We can’t confirm it 100%, but… this Twitter account seems to be the original source for the image, supposedly of a trampoline entangled in power lines in Milford, Connecticut. However, they then give credit to a different Twitter user, who has a protected account. But a Spokeo search gives an address for someone of that name in Milford, CT, and both Bing and StreetView show images of houses on that street which seem to match the building in that picture (as does the layout of the power lines.) So on balance, we’re happy to call this one real.

This one doesn’t seem to offer much to go on (via Brandon Gressette):

But it’s real - it’s a picture of Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. It was taken by Brian Thompson of NBC New York - here’s a better quality version of it, and here’s another of the same scene from a different angle.

Here is a picture of a man saving a dog. However, the man is not saving the dog from Sandy, as the New Statesman’s Alex Hern (author of this handy guide to basic image verification) points out:

The Atlantic traces it back even further, to Tropical Storm Sendong in the Philippines in December 2011: So:

AS BEFORE: If you’ve spotted any non-Sandy pictures that are being tweeted (or facebooked, or instagrammed) as Sandy, do give us a shout on @IsTwitWrong (or my regular account @flashboy) and I’ll look at them.

Did a homeschooled teenager really write a letter warning that ducks would overthrow humanity because of gays?


The letter from 14-year-old, homeschooled Jasmin - warning that “if homosexuality spreads… it could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder, and say, ducks, could take over the world” - is definitely real, in the sense that it was published in New Zealand’s Northern Outlook newspaper on October 3, 2012 - you can read it online here, although you’ll you need to register (hat-tip to Padraig Reidy).

Not only that, but there’s been quite a bit of follow up in the subsequent letters pages of Northern Outlook. On October 6, several readers wrote in to question Jasmin’s grasp of evolutionary theory and duck sexual behaviour, and suggesting that the fact she was home-schooled may be to blame for this:

On October 10 (the Northern Outlook publishes twice a week) another letter was published, also disagreeing with Jasmin’s position, and making a broader liberal point about tolerance of homsexuality. It was published along with a nice picture of a duck:

On October 13, there was some pushback against those correcting Jasmin - including one letter which states that “there is no scientific proof for evolution” and that “homosexuality is a sin and one of the reasons for Canterbury’s earthquakes”. The other letter, while significantly less entertaining, is more interesting from a verification point of view - it comes from someone who appears to be a relative of Jasmin, and who discusses her homeschooling and how she came to her opinions:

This leads us to the other question about whether the letter is real - it was certainly published, but was the paper taken in by a hoax letter? It’s impossible to say for sure without actually tracking down and speaking to the family - but the non-standard spelling of Jasmin’s name, along with knowing roughly the area she is said to live in and the name of a supposed relative, gives us some indications that she is a real person. For example, the name is mentioned in this PDF from a New Zealand Christian group (as spotted by Anya Palmer). Both Jasmin and her relative appear to have signed this petition against gay marriage in New Zealand. Both give their location on the petition as being in the same area as the letters in the paper. Someone with her relative’s name also appears to run workshops on homeschooling from a Christian perspective, and so on. So, on balance, it seems likely that the letter is entirely genuine.

(Note: we haven’t included Jasmin’s surname or particular details of where in New Zealand she lives in the text of this post, because she’s 14 years old and we don’t really want to contribute to a set of Google results that might follow her around for many years to come. We also haven’t gone any further in attempting to dig up details of the family, because writing a silly letter to a newspaper isn’t a crime, and they should be left in peace, even if they are wrong about ducks and gays.)

Did The Sun publish a mocking story in 1991 comparing the World Wide Web to the Sinclair C5?


This is an odd one, because the picture above is very obviously a joke - from the byline onwards - but nonetheless does appear to have been passed around Twitter for most of the day as though it was real. Or, at the very least, with a degree of uncertainty.

Partly this is because the most commonly shared version of the picture, above, strips it of its context. Here’s what the full page looks like:

So, it’s clearly not from 1991, as it claims, because it’s very noticeable that the design has been done on a relatively modern computer. (Also, on a pedantic point, while there was a web server running by late 1990, Tim Berners-Lee didn’t publicly announce the World Wide Web project until August 1991, so for the Sun to have front-paged it in May would have been a hell of a scoop…)

Compare it with this real Sun front page from later in 1991, and the difference is pretty obvious, from the overall look and feel to small details (like how the date and price are written, byline style, etc.):

So where does it come from? The answer is that it was actually made by The Sun themselves - it’s from Hold Ye Front Page, their (really rather good) educational site that features mocked-up front pages for historical events (there was also a book). In fact, the Hold Ye Front Page team are on Twitter, and have been cheerfully spending the day retweeting people saying that this picture proves how stupid The Sun are.

Are London 2012 Paralympic ticket pre-sales four hundred and sixty times higher than Beijing’s?

It seems unlikely.

That claim is from a tweet by Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of disability charity Scope. Mr Hawkes provides no source for his figures, and (so far) hasn’t responded to questions about where he got the numbers from. His tweet has, at the time of writing, been retweeted over 5,000 times.

We can’t find any figures close to the ones he suggests - which, on the face of it, sound deeply implausible. Matthew Somerville dug out some alternative figures that sound much more likely:

We’ve found other figures roughly in this ballpark - such as this story about Athens Paralympic ticket pre-sales “slumping” that puts the figure at 200,000; this official story from the Beijing organisers boasting of 480,000 sales almost two weeks before the Paralympics began. There’s little doubt that London 2012 is by far the most popular and highly anticipated Paralympics ever, with the 2.5million tickets available (almost a million more than the total available in 2008) almost entirely sold out in advance. That’s brilliant, and fitting for the country where the first ever Paralympics were held. But there’s no need to make up nonsense figures for previous Games to make ourselves look better.

Did Samsung really pay Apple $1.05billion in 5 cent coins?

No of COURSE they didn’t.

For one thing: as much as the IP wars in the tech industry may have sometimes given this impression, multinational companies generally don’t act quite so much like petulant children as this. For another: the idea that Samsung would pay up just a couple of days after the initial judgement is hilarious. This thing’s getting appealed and appealed and appealed again.

But if you want some more facty responses, here you go. As the US Department of the Treasury helpfully notes, while 21billion nickels would technically be legal tender (unlike in the UK, where there are limits on the amount you can pay with small denomination coins), it’s still the case that Apple would be under no obligation to accept the coins as payment. And furthermore, there’s the issue of practicality. That many coins would weigh a grand total of 5,250,000kg. Split across (as is claimed) 30 trucks, that works out at 175,000kg per truck. Good luck with that; the maximum permitted vehicle weight both on Interstate Highways and in the state of California, where Apple are headquartered, is just under 36,300kg.

Also, it wasn’t a copyright battle, it was a patent battle.

Anyway: it’s been admitted that it’s not true. And as @elliot_bentley points out, it appears to have originated from a website that helpfully puts the words “humour” and “satire” directly above it, which should have been a clue. (Update: Charles Arthur, in his excellent Guardian debunking published at almost exactly the same time as this one, pegs the original source as being this Mexican website.)

Worth noting: at the time of writing, the tweet with the false claim has over 6,000 retweets. The correction has just over 1,000. Bullshit spreads.

Is that really a pornographic picture of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan?



Don’t click that link. As you value your life or your reason, keep away from that link. (This is roughly how everybody reacted to seeing it.)

Here is a version of the image, but with any elements that might cause distress pixellated:

The image appears to show popular British TV presenting couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan semi-naked and performing sexual acts. However, it’s not real.

This is the original, non-Richard & Judy version. Don’t click that link either.

Has the UK threatened to storm the Ecuadorean embassy to arrest Julian Assange?

Er… do we have to do this one? It’s complicated and messy.

There’s really no way to answer this definitively at the moment. What’s known: the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, claimed that such a threat had been made. This is apparently based on a diplomatic letter from the British embassy in Quito, which is (reportedly) this one here. Here is an (unverified) English translation of the letter. The Foreign Office says it was merely intended to keep the Ecuadoreans informed. Is that a threat? It’s certainly not an overt threat of planned or imminent action - the tone of the letter is stern but broadly aimed at making conciliatory gestures; it merely notes that the UK government believes it would have the legal right to enter the embassy premises to conduct an arrest should all other diplomatic efforts fail. But then, when in diplomatic language is an overt threat ever made? Ultimately, it’s a matter of interpretation, in which most people’s interpretations seem to be aligning with their previously held opinions of the Assange case, with sound and fury heavily outweighing actual facts. 

What seems clear is that the main aim of the letter is to dissuade Ecuador from unilaterally announcing a decision on the Assange asylum case before the UK-Ecuadorean diplomatic negotiations have been allowed to run their course - as a Guardian report had suggested they were going to. Speculative interpretations of the facts have included: this being sabre-rattling on the part of the UK; this being sabre-rattling on the part of Ecuador; and this being mutual sabre-rattling to disguise the fact that a deal has already been reached, and that the letter is merely a way of providing Ecuador with cover.

The Ecuadorean foreign minister says that the decision has now been made, and will be announced at 1pm UK time on Thursday.

Police have been seen entering the embassy building tonight (although possibly not the embassy itself, which is only one flat within the building), but for what purpose is unclear. And reports suggest the entry was not forced, as phrases like “storm” and “raid” would suggest. No arrests appear to have been made.

Legal blogger Carl Gardner lays out the actual law here - and while the UK does retain such a right under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, he is unsure that the apparent UK interpretation of the international law regarding how such a decision can be made is sound. However, as comparable events are rare and the case law is even more limited, such assessments of the legal situation are necessarily speculative. Gardner does additionally suggest that such a step would be a counterproductive move on the part of the UK government, not least because it would likely allow Assange to seek a judicial review, tying the case up in the courts for even longer.

One super-pedantic point: whatever the interpretation of the “threat”, strictly speaking no storming of an embassy would take place, as the legal mechanism for allowing the entry would be to strip the premises of their embassy status. There is no evidence that this process - which in any case would require a week’s notice to be given - has been set in motion.

This is why we normally prefer trying to verify pictures of Spider-Man.

Is Margaret Thatcher dead?

No of course she bloody isn’t. Just like she wasn’t dead the last hundred times she was dead.

This time, the “news” was tweeted by an account named @OfficialSkyNews, which is not an official Sky News account (and has now been deleted). Her Wikipedia page was also briefly updated to reflect the news, which was not true.

The last time Margaret Thatcher was not dead was May this year, when a French news outlet got taken in by a tweet from an account called @CBruniOfficial, which was not an official account of former French first lady Carla Bruni. 

We will attempt to update this post every time Margaret Thatcher is not dead. However, in the absence of updates, it is generally safe to assume that the answer to the question “Is Margaret Thatcher dead?” is always “no.”

CAVEAT: At some point, it seems plausible that Margaret Thatcher will in fact be dead. When that time comes, here are some actual real accounts of major news organisations: @BBCBreaking@reuters, @AP, @AFP@SkyNewsBreak, @guardian, @thetimes, @nytimes, @washingtonpost, @AJEnglish , @BreakingNews, @BreakingNewsUK and, what the hell, @TMZ. Allowing for the possibility of hacks, falling for hoaxes, and so on, we would recommend waiting for at least three of these to independently report the news of Lady Thatcher’s demise before believing it.

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