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80,259 News Articles

10 times the web got it seriously wrong

Don't believe everything you read

Don't believe everything you read on the web. We've rounded up the internet's 10 biggest howlers.

10. What are they, nuts?

February 2009: Here's the setup for a joke: What do Fox News, Attorney General Eric Holder, and a rare monkey have in common? Answer: They unwittingly combined to make the bloggers at Huffington Post look like complete fools.

The story begins with a De Brazza's guenon that escaped from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Its distinguishing characteristic: a bright blue scrotum. (Don't blame us, we're not responsible for evolution.)

The primate's privates made for lively chatter on Fox News, which also reported on the AG's controversial statement that the US is "a nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations.

John Sanders, a tech reporter for WBAL-TV in Baltimore, decided to splice the two reports together and post the video on YouTube, making it appear as if Fox News commentator John Gibson was talking about the attorney general's "bright blue scrotum". That clip made it to TVNewser, where a HuffPost blogger found it and broadcast it to the world, not realising it was just a hoax.

Huffington later apologised for getting so badly duped. The monkey was captured about 45 minutes after its escape, and Sanders lost his job over the joke gone sour.

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9. Amazon is no friend of Dorothy

April 2009: Hell hath no fury like several thousand gay and lesbian people scorned, as Amazon learned earlier this month when a cataloging error made the World's Biggest Store look like the World Biggest Homophobe. Automated software used by the online retailer to make porn harder to find on its site ended up shoving a number of books on LGBT themes into the closet.

According to a report by Andrea James at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, an Amazon employee in France mistakenly tagged some 57,000 books as "adult", causing them to be removed from the site's sales rankings and search results.

An Amazon spokesperson apologised for the "embarrassing and ham-fisted" mistake and says the problem is being fixed. But Amazon has yet to adequately explain why titles like 'Heather Has Two Mommies' got delisted, while 'A Parents' Guide to Preventing Homosexuality' did not.

8. Pop tart collides with pretzel van

June 2001, October 2001: Poor Britney Spears. The troubled pop diva was killed twice in the space of six months by hoaxes picked up by mainstream media.

In the first story, Spears was killed when a car driven by former boytoy Justin Timberlake collided with a pretzel van. The story - which may have started as a "joke" news report on KEGL radio in Dallas - migrated to online message boards and was posted to a fake BBC site, prompting thousands of phone calls to Los Angeles police and fire departments.

Brit bit it again in another road mishap (this time minus the snack foods). It appeared on a bogus CNN.com page created by Michigan comic-strip artist Tim Fries, who wanted to make a point about how fake news can spread across the web.

Fries used URL trickery to make it look as if the story was hosted by CNN, and exploited a bug in CNN's "email this" feature that caused it to be the site's "Most Popular" news story, even though it never actually appeared on CNN.com. Some 120,000 Netizens clicked on the link and mourned Spears' passing, however briefly.

Spears is hardly the only celebrity to get killed by the web (see "The Dead Pool" on the last page). But please, people, can't we just leave Britney alone?

NEXT PAGE: not gay, just homosexual

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