Hoaxes & Rumors

Ebola Hoaxes, Fake News and Satire: The Big List

Ebola Hoaxes, Fake News and Satire: The Big List

With the rise of media attention on the Ebola virus, a slew of fake news stories, hoaxes, and “satirical” pieces have circulated. Today we offer a recap of most of the fake viral stories and hoaxes related to Ebola.

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Below is a collection of many fake Ebola stories which have circulated in recent months. Some were deliberately created to fool readers, while others were merely the result of speculation bullet points circulated without explanation.

We will update this list as more fake Ebola stories circulate in coming weeks. Let us know if you’ve seen one not on the list below.

Ebola Zombie

  • Type: Fake News, Questionable News
  • Source: Multiple

Perhaps the most shared rumor regarding Ebola is that of victims who came back to life after expiring, also known as the Ebola Zombie. What gave credibility to this story is that it originated in the headlines of legitimate news organizations such as Newsweek and ABC News. Those news reports used dramatic headlines to describe a man who was believed to be dead, but later found still clinging to life.

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Liberian website The New Dawn published an unverified story in which two female Ebola victims had resurrected from the dead. That report was not repeated or verified by any legitimate news organization.

Fake news website Huzlers (and apparently related Celebtricity) ran its own version of the Ebola Zombie story, offering a photo as “proof.” That photo, however, appeared to be an altered image of a zombie from the movie World War Z. That photo received heavy sharing on social media for several days afterward.

Texas Town Quarantined

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: National Report

On the heels of reports that a Texas nurse had contracted Ebola, National Report published a piece stating that the town of Purdon, Texas had been quarantined by the CDC after a family of five tested for Ebola.

As first reported by Bad Satire Today, this fake news report by National Report claimed that the CDC had sealed off the town with road blocks. National Report claims to be a satire website, although it has been described as “click-bait” by several journalists.

The story went viral, some may say due to the fear mongering nature of the “satirical” report.

Sarah Palin Asks Obama to Invade Ebola

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: National Report

A story circulating in early October claimed that Sarah Palin had urged President Obama to “invade Ebola” in an apparent confusion between the deadly virus and ISIS. The open letter published by National Report, along with the rest of the story, was a complete fabrication.

See our full write-up of the Sarah Palin “Invade Ebola” report.

Ann Coulter Suggests Ebola For Migrant Children

  • Type: Satire
  • Source: The Daily Currant

A story by the humorous website The Daily Currant featured a quote by conservative Ann Coulter, who suggested infecting illegal immigrant children with Ebola and sending them back across the border. The comment, allegedly made to Sean Hannity on Fox News, is not real. Although most readers of The Daily Currant are aware that the site publishes only satire, some readers apparently believed the story to be true.

Obamacare Will Not Cover Ebola Treatment

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: National Report

Another report by fake news website National Report claimed that treatment for Ebola was not clearly defined in the language of Obamacare, which could mean that treatment for the virus would not be covered.

Medical coverage is not limited to specific viruses or where a disease may have been contracted.

The National Report story is complete fiction.

Rapper Gucci Mane Diagnosed with Ebola

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: Huzlers

Fake news website Huzlers posted a piece which asserted that rapper Gucci Mane had been “mysteriously diagnosed with Ebola in prison.” The fictional report includes “quotes” from the rapper. Huzlers is self-described as “a combination of real shocking news and satirical entertainment to keep its visitors in a state of disbelief.”

The report is not true.

Experts “Admit” Ebola is now Airborne

  • Type: Speculation
  • Source: Multiple

Two high-profile pieces in recent months have prompted increased discussion about the possibility of airborne transmission of Ebola. A September 2014 op-ed in the New York Times entitled What We’re Afraid to Say About Ebola” presents a worst-case scenario of Ebola mutating into a virus which could be transmitted through the air. Scientific American presented this scenario to Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert William Schaffer, who noted that the virus doesn’t have “protein attachments that can actually attach to cells in the upper airway. They have to develop attachments to do that.” Thus, for Ebola to mutate into an airborne virus, it would need to develop the required attachments, and “neither it (nor any of its viral cousins) has been known to do in the wild,” Scientific American states.

Ebola expert Thomas Geisbert said the risk of airborne transmission is unknown, but “it is probably not zero.”

A CNN piece from October 6, 2014 also speculated what could happen if Ebola were to become airborne. The piece described the devastation that could happen if Ebola were to mutate into an airborne illness, quoting Dr. Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota as saying, “It’s the single greatest concern I’ve ever had in my 40-year public health career.”

A week after the CNN piece, conspiracy website InfoWars published a piece which pondered, “Is Ebola Airborne Now?” The article’s subheading claims that “scientific evidence” suggests Ebola could be “transmitted via infectious aerosol particles.” There was no actual evidence about an airborne Ebola offered, but rather suggestions by a few experts that the virus had potential to be airborne.

Bono Has Ebola

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: Organ Grinder

In what appears to be a new entrant into the click-bait fake news arena, website Organ Grinder published a fake report that Bono had “likely contracted” the Ebola virus. It was stated that the musician and humanitarian was exposed to the virus while “caring for a dying Liberian man.”

The story is a complete fabrication.  The Independent referred to the story as “disgusting” and “absurd” and noted that the photo used in the fake story was taken back in 2010.

CDC Says Ebola Vaccine Only Works on White People

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: TheNewsNerd

An article entitled, “CDC Says Ebola Vaccine Only Works on White People” by TheNewsNerd received heavy social media sharing in late September, likely due to its shocking headline. The fake story claimed that early tests of an experimental Ebola drug only worked on patients with white skin, and that the CDC was working to improve the vaccine to help everyone in need.

TheNewsNerd includes a disclaimer which notes that the “stories posted on TheNewsNerd are for entertainment purposes only… rest assured they are purely satirical.”

Ebola Found in Hair Extensions

  • Type: Fake Graphic
  • Source: Unknown

A fake graphic circulated on social media showing Anderson Cooper, with a headline that read, “Ebola has been found in numerous packages of hair extensions.”

ebola-extensions

The photo quickly led to knee-jerk sharing by social media readers who did not verify the story.

The image above was simply a digitally-altered screen shot from an Anderson Cooper interviewing a person about Ebola. No mention of Ebola existing in hair extensions was made by any reputable news organization.

iPhone 6 Contaminated with Ebola

  • Type: Fake News
  • Source: Daily Buzz Live

Fake news website Daily Buzz Live combined two hot stories, melding the release of the iPhone 6 with the Ebola scare into a single false news report. The fictitious story received heavy social media sharing due to its shocking headline “iPhone 6 Phones Contaminated With Ebola.” Despite the badly-worded snippet (“After over 20,000 of confirmed cases…”), the headline was apparently shocking enough for readers to share the story over 100,000 times.

Daily Buzz Live produces fiction “inspired by real news events.”

Conclusion

The above list of fake news which has swarmed throughout social media over recent weeks is a testament to the increased attention and sensitivity of the topic of Ebola. In some cases, speculation has led to the dissemination of false information, but in the majority of cases, fake Ebola stories are deliberately created to prompt clicks and sharing. We’ll defer to The Independent’s description of fake news sites which attempt to cash in on easy traffic by producing shocking, fictional works: Disgusting, click-bait, and absurd.

Your Turn

Have you seen a fake Ebola news story, rumor, or hoax circulating? Tell us about it and we’ll add it to the list above.

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