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How This Hoax About Space Fooled Over One Million Facebook Users

Levitation floating drifting jumpWikimedia Commons

If you’ve been paying attention on Facebook recently, you might have noticed a friend or two sharing a story about a phenomenon that would supposedly be happening in early January of 2015.

“Strange natural occurrences are happening in the world today. But nothing more magnificent than the one you will experience on January 4, 2015,” Daily Buzz Live’s story reads. “According to British astronomer Patrick Moore, at exactly 9:47 PST AM on January 4th, Pluto will pass directly behind Jupiter, in relation to Earth.”

The story, from Daily Buzz Live, stated that there would be a once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignment where Pluto would pass directly behind Jupiter, which would counteract Earth’s gravity for a short period of time, rendering everyone on the planet briefly weightless.

Sounds cool right? Sounds maybe a bit unbelievable?

If you saw this story and were sceptical, you had every right to be: it’s just not true.

The Daily Dot did a really great job at debunking this hoax that was shared over one million times on Facebook.

“If planetary alignments ever caused worldwide weightlessness, they would likely have heard about it more than a few weeks before the next one. They would likely have read about in their high-school science textbooks,” Aaron Sankin of The Daily Dot writes.

The Daily Dot continues,

Anyone who did a simple Google search for the Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect would have found its Wikipedia page and learned from its first sentence that this particular scam has been repeated ad nauseam for four decades.

WikipediaWikipedia

The story is fake, and Daily Buzz Live often posts fake stories, much like The Onion. But the difference is that The Onion is 100% satirical, while Daily Buzz Live publishes real stories alongside its fake stories. 

“On Daily Buzz Live, meanwhile, the real and the unreal are intermingled, with no labels separating them. The planetary alignment story sits next to stories about factual events like “8 Photos Of Shocking Police Brutality On Peaceful Protesters and Civilians” and “Horrific Racist Song About Michael Brown At Charity Event ‘And He’s Dead, Dead, Michael Brown’“” The Daily Dot reports. “These are pieces that wouldn’t be out of place on real viral news sites.”

Meanwhile back on Facebook, the story is getting hundreds of thousands of shares, complete with this photo of what looks like a tweet from NASA.

Daily Buzz LiveDaily Buzz Live

The tweet, like the story, is fake and was created on a site called LemmeTweetThatForYou.com, says The Daily Dot. 

So what happens to a publication when its satirical story, in an attempt to be passed off as real, ends up going massively viral on the world’s largest social network?

The answer is, absolutely nothing. But before you share a story that seems too good, or too bizarre to be true, it’s best to make sure that it actually is.

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