The Biggest Social Media Hoaxes People Fell For In 2016

Donald Trump may be Time's "Person of the Year," but fake news would probably win as "Topic of the Year." In the aftermath of the election, reports of deceptive articles across Facebook received increased attention, as did false ads that circulated across Twitter.

No matter how careful you are about where you get your news from, Photoshop skills and misleading attributions can lead anyone astray. While the election was the topic of many of this year's fraudulent claims, election-related hoaxes probably weren't the only ones you were stunned (or, perhaps, happy) to learn were false. Puppies, peppers, and Fisher-Price toys were all dealt a blow. And you'd better believe that Twitter delivered swift judgment.

Click through to see nine of the biggest social media and internet hoaxes that far too many of us fell for in 2016. And, as we wait for Facebook to step up its vetting process in 2017, make sure you follow these tips before sharing an article online.
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Photo: Twitter.
1. The Fisher-Price "Happy Hour Playset"
Twitter was up in arms after an image of the newest Fisher-Price playset started circulating online. The "Happy Hour Playset" supposedly included a pretend bar, bar stools, and beer bottles. Today reported that the image, the work of a skilled photoshopper, gained traction when comedian Amiri King shared it on Facebook. Fisher-Price responded saying that the set was fake and that they are not, in fact, producing such a toy.

Instead, may we recommend this creepy looking, but libation-free, light-up sea horse?
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Photo: Twitter.
2. Lyst's Puppy Collection
Dogs for sale! No one knew what to think when Lyst announced a new puppy collection in May. The e-commerce retailer was offering 33 breeds of dogs, in your choice of size, from extra-small to oversized, and in different colorways, too. Unfortunately for the brand, animal lovers were outraged, and attacked the retailer for supporting puppy farming. It turned out that the whole thing was just a publicity stunt gone wrong. The collection was ultimately removed from the site and an apology was issued.
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Photo: Twitter.
3. An Extremely Hot Pepper Burned A Hole In A Man’s Throat
A few media outlets picked up this story, as did many Twitter users, but it turns out, they may have embellished it quite a bit. A man did eat a burger with ghost pepper puree and had a bad reaction to it, as reported on by The Journal of Emergency Medicine. In the emergency room, doctors found that the man had a tear in his esophagus. But it wasn't the ghost pepper, per se. According to The Washington Post, it was the man's forceful vomiting that caused the tear — not the pepper.
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Photo: Twitter.
4. Lightbulb Change On A 1,999-Foot-High Building
Over 6 million people tuned in to a Facebook Live showing the impossible: a man climbing a 1,999-foot-high building to replace a lightbulb. The catch? The video wasn’t live at all, but was actually just uploaded to the Facebook real-time video feature. According to the BBC, it was actually a four-hour loop of a previously recorded 18-minute-long clip.
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Photo: Twitter.
5. Harambe The Gorilla Got Thousands Of Votes In The U.S. Election
Twitter was home to many complaints about third-party votes, especially those for the deceased gorilla Harambe. Twitter users claimed that the gorilla got 11,000 votes — or was it 15,000? While some individuals did share photos on social media of themselves writing in Harambe on their ballots, CNN reported that there was no proof to support the massive number of votes backing the gorilla.
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Photo: Twitter.
6. Text To Vote For Hillary
No, you could not vote by text in this year's presidential election. But some people attempted to circulate that false information among Hillary supporters. The realistic-looking ads were quickly debunked, but that didn't stop them from spreading across Twitter. It's unknown whether this hoax had any real impact on the election.
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Photo: Twitter.
7. Pepsi Says No To Trump Supporters
Pepsi bore the brunt of many angered Trump supporters' boycotts. According to CBS, false news reports claimed that Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi told supporters to "take their business elsewhere." While Nooyi did address the election in a conversation with The New York Times, she only spoke out against Trump's locker-room talk.
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Photo: Twitter.
8. A Donald Trump Protestor Was Paid To Attend
Both Eric Trump and Kellyanne Conway fell for this one. Fake news site ABCNews.com.co was one of the sites that ran stories like this on Facebook that were widely circulated. One article, attributed to a nonexistent ABC News reporter, claimed that Clinton's campaign was paying protestors to attend Trump rallies. After the election, the fake news site's founder still seemed sadly disillusioned about the negative impact his articles had.
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Photo: Twitter.
9. CNN's Porn Scare
One Twitter user, whose account has since been made private, drew ire after claiming that CNN was airing porn in place of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. This one tweet showed the disturbing power of fake news in 2016: It led to numerous news articles that falsely spread the story.
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