Fake news and its effects dominated headlines in 2016. The US Presidential election alone was witness to the maximum number of cooked up articles being published online.
So what is fake news — well it is just about any made-up story that is presented as if they are factual news accounts. Although such cases have existed before, this year it went out of control with social media giants Facebook, Twitter and search leader Google being forced to take prompt actions. The companies have developed and are still developing tools to tackle this menace.
IBTimes UK lists for you some of the craziest fake news articles the past year saw, many of which we totally believed at one point.
"Hillary Clinton is running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop." As defamatory as this headline sounds, it did end up going viral among online news outlets when websites like Infowars.com, Planet Free Will and the Vigilant Citizen picked up an allegation that said democratic party members were running a child trafficking racket from a Pizza shop named Comet Ping Pong in Washington DC.
Soon people started believing the allegations were true and on 13 December, Edgar Maddison Welch, a resident of Carolina fired three shots in the restaurant with a rifle. Although the incident did not injure anyone, Welch told police that he had planned to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory.
Later several mainstream publications like The Observer, The New York Times, The Huffington Post and more came forward to debunk the theory and claimed it was totally made up. They said images of children of family and friends of the pizzeria's staff were taken from social media sites and put up as photos of victims which were false.
The story came to be probably the biggest fake news attempt of 2016.
Corona Beer founder makes villagers rich after death
News spread rapidly about the death of founder of Corona beer, Antonino Fernandez, but what stood out for readers was his generous gift of 200m euros (£169m; $208m) to 80 residents of Cerezales, the Spanish village where he was born and raised. News aggregating websites and content generation businesses picked up the story in no time and it gave them good hits.
However, the story turned out to be untrue and yet again a part of the fake news racket when Fundación Cerezales Antonino y Cinia, a cultural and contemporary art center established by Fernandez, denied these reports.
"I can confirm he didn't leave money to his villagers in his will. 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," said Lucia Alajos, the Foundation's communications chief.
Sanders lost due to Hillary
Much before the Trump-Hillary wars could start stories started to run about how Bernie Sanders' loss may have been a conspiracy. A story by the 'Nevada County Scooper' was headlined "5 million uncounted Sanders ballot found on Clinton's email server."
Well the website did claim that they were, "an entertainment site with just plain-old crappy writing with a few bad jokes." The story however managed to score close to 141,00 engagements on Facebook.
Another story posted on 'YourNewsWire.com' claimed that hacked Clinton emails revealed that she threatened Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane. It even ended up citing Russian President Vladimir Putin as its source.
Germany allowing child marriages
A blog called Political Ears posted a photograph of young girls in white bridal dresses standing next to grown men with an accompanying article saying "Germany has basically fallen to the Caliphate with the blessings of globalist Angela Merkel by allowing men to marry children."
Snopes.com later found that not only was the report false but the picture used was one that originated in 2012 and was most likely from the Gaza strip.
Ireland and Canada to accept Trump fearing Americans
A site called 'Winning Democrats' claimed Ireland was accepting refugees from America who were fleeing the possibility of a Trump presidency. The story got 810,000 engagements on Facebook before it was taken down.
A similar story posted by 'World News Daily Report' claimed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was preparing to accept 250,000 American refugees if Trump became President. The story of course turned out to be totally false
FBI agent related to Clinton leaks dead
Yet another fake news story related to Clinton where a site called Denver Guardian declared that, "FBI agent suspected in Hillary e-mail leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide."
Well it turned out that everything about the article was made up, including the city where the crime supposedly occurred as there is no Walkerville and only sounds similar to Walkersville. The Denver Post, a legitimate news source ran its own article denying any connection to the fake news whatsoever.
Simpsons predicting Trump win in 2000
A Tweet went viral about how the TV show Simpsons predicted way back in 2000 that Trump would be President. Well it turns out while cartoons depicting Trump as President in the tweet were indeed from The Simpsons, but they were from a short video entitled "Trumpastic Voyage," posted to the "Animation Domination" YouTube channel page on 7 July 2015, after Trump had announced his nomination.
Indian Rs 2000 note has GPS installed in it
Recently India faced a major demonetisation move when it banned its highest currency notes overnight. As new currency tenders of Rs 2000 ($30) came in the market, news articles went viral about how there was GPS chip installed on these notes to track black money offenders and thieves. The rumour was so livid that major news channels started holding discussions on the same with many believing this was true.
The Reserve Bank of India later clarified the new notes contain some security features like latent images, coloured strip security threads and watermarks but definitely do not have a chip installed.