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.

1. Here are some of @PicPedant’s best debunkings:


.@Fascinatingpics Nope, light painting art by @DariusTwin: http://t.co/NXqRjb53Vr

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

@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.


Race of double deck buses, 1933

— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics)

.@HistoryInPics Via the National Archief, The Hague, Netherlands: http://t.co/Fd1BRMKG7X — a fairly obvious 1930s paste-and-airbrush job.

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

How the sky looks during a space shuttle launch at night. Just Magnificent.

— SPACE PORN (@GoogleSpacePorn)

.@GoogleSpacePorn Not a Space Shuttle. Atlas V rocket launching RBSP satellites 2 years after last shuttle mission: http://t.co/t1NE1L2sB7

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

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.”


The Himalayas from space.

— Earth Pics (@EARTHPlCS)

.@EARTHPlCS [repeat] Nope, 3D computer rendering by Christoph Hormann: http://t.co/ufCmr4Vj1B | http://t.co/sPme8kqMfH

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Black Knight Satellite

— SPACE PORN (@GoogleSpacePorn)

.@GoogleSpacePorn That's a thermal blanket that drifted off the Space Shuttle Endeavour during an EVA on STS-88. http://t.co/B6bANvgfH1

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

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.”


Waterfall Castle, The Enchanted Wood

— Earth Pics (@ThatsEarth)

.@ThatsEarth @fakeastropix "Hidden Temple," digital render by Ruben Darío Karamañites Arango http://t.co/HzXS3rUEHb | http://t.co/2lj9Ta98BP

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Audrey Hepburn

— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPix)

.@HistoryInPix [repeat] Already established as NOT Audrey Hepburn or even a lookalike. Duped by another fake. https://t.co/Qu1C1Jrc6l

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Floating house ... wow ...

— Secret World Pics ™ (@TheWorldStories)

.@TheWorldStories 3D rendering by Sebastian Kerner, Germany: http://t.co/GwQU9UJ3Iu

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Please rt this until this asshole gets caught!

— Fascinating Pictures (@Fascinatingpics)

.@Fascinatingpics Hoax: bottle was capped, he was wrestling it away from the puppy. You can quit the moral panic now. http://t.co/qur8OmwpHT

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Photo from the 1940s of what many scientists believe to be an extinct Megalodon swimming next to a German U-boat.

— Terrifying Posts (@TerrifyingPosts)

.@TerrifyingPosts Nope, fake. Sensationalized photomanipulation created for Discovery Channel 'Megalodon' trailer: http://t.co/DbbSHWuKIx

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Sequoia National Park - Sierra, NV

— Secret World Pics ™ (@TheWorldStories)

.@TheWorldStories Original without moon pasted in: http://t.co/xzt18BNMo6 (Also it's "Sierra Nevada" in California; not "Sierra, Nevada")

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

.@TheWorldStories But then, you were probably just auto-scraping the title from Reddit or Imgur or Pixdaus or Pinterest.

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

.@TheWorldStories Oh heh it's not even from the Sierra Nevada, original pic by Evren Güntürkün was in Europe: http://t.co/jin1lgNKgz

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

.@TheWorldStories So yeah, wrong about moon, wrong about location, wrong about wrong location, and no link crediting original artist.

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Cloud that looks like a wave

— Fascinating Pictures (@Fascinatingpics)

.@Fascinatingpics .@soundhunter Photomanipulation by artist Peter Holme III: http://t.co/Lz7nA4o7Dv | http://t.co/zUCfFiGpqw

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

Awesome !

— Secret World Pics ™ (@TheWorldStories)

.@TheWorldStories Cropped from "Scorched Earth" by Daniel Conway (aka arcipello) on DeviantArt: http://t.co/hXDy8r6aV5

— PicPedant (@PicPedant)

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Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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