14 Incredible But Fake Viral Images — And The Twitter Account Debunking The Picspammers

Everybody loves mind-blowing images on Twitter — but not many people check if they’re real. Meet the Twitter account that’s taking on that task.

Montage: Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed

Incredibly, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping viral picture feeds are all over Twitter. They post images that are beautiful, fascinating, moving…and often complete nonsense. But there’s help at hand — the @PicPedant Twitter account is trying to kick back against the factory line approach these accounts take to spreading images — one of many attempts to make fact-checking go as viral as the fact-free.

@PicPedant is run by one man, Paulo Ordoveza. “I used to run an urban legend debunking site called pula.ph in the Philippines, waaaay back in the late ’90s and early aughts,” he told BuzzFeed by email. But, he says, “it petered out after a while because I insisted on making everything longform and I didn’t have the time or energy to devote pages of text to scads of repetitive email forwards.”

He doesn’t just deal with fakes on the account — he also corrects misattributed images, or real images without a credit for the photographer.

Which accounts are the worst offenders for tweeting fake images? “Anything with ‘google’, ‘earth’, or ‘porn’ in the title seems to be pretty bad about churning out misleading captions and nonattribution,” he says. “I’m not even going to bother with the accounts that just regurgitate Reddit/9GAG memes…”

His favourite topic for debunking is anything to do with space: “My heart’s always been with spaceflight and astronomy.”

Why does he think people are so keen to share images, regardless of their accuracy? “Myth and fantasy are powerful forces, and even more powerful is that little endorphin rush one can get from finding a diamond in the rough, a precious little secret that pops out at you from your Twitter Home stream, minimally and pithily captioned in a way that captures your mind and imagination, just so.

“Never mind, of course, that about a million other followers have seen it too; this is yours, this pleasurable feeling of resonance with the past, or with a stranger, or with the natural world, or with the universe, or with a cute animal. When someone comes barging in on that feeling with ‘TOTALLY SHOPPED AND STOLEN FROM 500PX LOL’ I can understand someone feeling defensive over it.

“And meanwhile, the picspammers have learned how to seize on that feeling, and how to leverage it toward affiliate link profit.”

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