Viral videos of 2014: Five big ones that turned out to be fake

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Viral videos have obviously become a huge part of our culture these days. If you’re looking to get a taste of fame or spread a message, creating an appealing short video clip seems to be the best way to go about it.

But this tool can be manipulated, and videos can be faked. Ever since Lonelygirl15 became popular in 2006 – when a 16-year-old home-schooled teen named Bree, who filmed videos in her bedroom, turned out to be an actress working with a production crew – we’ve seen hoaxes pop up on YouTube and other streaming sites. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel fooled most of us last year with that fake twerking fail video, when a girl fell into a bunch of candles after a friend interrupted her dance routine. Did she really catch on fire? It was all a lie, folks.

So, how did we get tricked this year? Did Kimmel really get us again? Here are five of 2014’s biggest viral video hoaxes:


U.S. luger Kate Hansen alarmed gullible Internet users during the Sochi Olympics this winter, when she tweeted a video from her dorm in the Olympic village that appeared to show a wolf wandering the hallways. Numerous media outlets picked up the story – for some reason, we all believed that the conditions in Russia were really that dangerous – before Kimmel revealed that he had masterminded the whole thing, using a tame wolf and recreating the Sochi hallway in a Los Angeles studio. Does Kimmel just control the entire Internet?

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We wanted it to happen so badly, didn’t we? In March, YouTube viewers witnessed technology from 1989’s Back to the Future II finally becoming a reality, as a number of celebrities – including Tony Hawk, Moby and Back to the Future’s Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd – endorsed a hoverboard from a company called HUVr Tech. But clever Internet users found clues that the video was fake – if you paused it at certain moments, you could see shadows of cranes holding up suspension cables for the so-called hoverboard riders – and the whole thing turned out to be a hoax from Funny or Die. After apologizing to his fans, Hawk eventually appeared in another hoverboard clip from a different company – and minus the suspension cables. And while the Hendo Hoverboard doesn’t get as much air as the Marty McFly version, at least it’s the real deal.

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Rob Cantor’s phenomenal talent for impressions turned out to be completely fake. And even though his song was pretty catchy – the comedian and singer performed an original tune called Perfect while supposedly impersonating the voices of Frank Sinatra, Bono, Gwen Stefani and others – we still felt sort of ripped-off. “I cannot do a single celebrity impression,” he eventually confessed in a behind-the-scenes video, saying that he hired 11 vocalists to sing while he lip-synced their parts.

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In early August, a video surfaced of Vladimir Putin unveiling a First World War monument in Moscow, with a bird pooping on his shoulder during the speech. The embarrassing clip, which seemed to originate on YouTube channel PressTVNews1, was revealed to be fake when compared with other videos and photos from the same event. The avian protest never really happened.

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In November, footage of a little boy dodging gunfire in Syria to save a girl from snipers engrossed online viewers until, you guessed it, the truth came out. Norwegian filmmaker Lars Klevberg says he created the clip to spur debate about children and war, and shot the video in Malta this summer on the same set used for movies like Troy and Gladiator. “We are really happy with the reaction,” said Klevberg to the BBC, after facing heavy criticism from jilted Internet users. “It created a debate.”

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Twitter: @SeanDFitzgerald