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Multiple marine biologists are telling you it's not a shark
Read to the end for a really good TikTok about Hollister
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What Misinformation Actually Looks Like
Yesterday afternoon, a blogger named Cara Lisette tweeted the above post about the “tasselled wobbegong shark”. It went viral, even though this is not, in fact, a photo of a tasselled wobbegong shark. It’s actually likely a photo of a monkfish. If you click into this tweet’s replies, you’ll see dozens of panicked marine biologists. “Hey Cara, given than multiple PhD marine biologists have now told you that this is not a shark, perhaps you’d consider removing this tweet so not as to contribute to spreading misinformation,” wrote Dr. David Shiffman, a research associated Arizona State University, who goes by the Twitter handle @WhySharksMatter.
Lisette did not see any of these replies, however, because, as she explained in subsequent tweets on her timeline, she had muted this tweet after it went viral. She did say she felt bad she tweeted an incorrect photo of a tasselled wobbegong shark. Though, seemingly not bad enough to delete the erroneous tweet.
First thing’s first: How did Lisette stumble across this photo of a “tasselled wobbegong shark”? I suspected this was from a viral Tumblr post — it just feels like a wrong thing Tumblr users would share — but after a bunch of searching, I couldn’t find any evidence to that. But if you google “tasselled wobbegong shark” this picture is actually the third photo that pops up. And it’s not because of the popularity of Lisette’s tweet.
If you click on that photo of a not-tasselled-wobbegong-shark-but-actually-a-monkfish, it takes you to a YouTube video called “🦈🦈 Say Hello To the Tasselled Wobbegong Shark! (Yes, that is its real name!) 🦈🦈” which was posted to YouTube last month. All of the comments under the video are users complaining that it’s not actually a tasselled wobbegong shark, but a monkfish.
The channel that published the video is called Arcane Animals. It has about 50,000 subscribers and almost all of its videos are viral animal watchbait, like “💚 🟢 The Worlds First Green Puppy Born in Italy 🟢💚”.
The videos on the Arcane Animals channel all link back to an SEO farm called theverybesttop10.com, which appears to be run by an SEO expert from Wales. There are also Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter accounts for the website, pushing similar content. The site is full of random top 10 articles meant to game Google traffic. And, when combined with the Arcane Animals YouTube channel, it appears to be working!
The earliest version I could find of the exact image that Lisette shared, however, is from this Reddit comment from April of this year, which has hilariously, now been updated with an apology about how it’s not actually a photo of a tasselled wobbegong shark.
And, of course, now that the incorrect photo has gone viral via Lisette’s tweet, regardless of how many distressed marine biologists are in the replies attempting to debunk the post, it’s now having a new life as a viral factoid. Someone reposted the monkfish photo to Reddit’s r/NatureIsFuckingLit subreddit yesterday and it’s possible that, due to the rabid nature of the fake animal facts internet, this photo of a monkfish will be incorrectly associated with a tasselled wobbegong shark forever.
This is all pretty low stakes. Yes, unfortunately, there will be people who now think that this monkfish is a tasselled wobbegong shark, but — though I could be wrong — I assume that this will not further dismantle our democracy or endanger our public health. But, who knows, these things can spiral, I suppose. What I think this whole episode does illustrate, however, is how, essentially, every mechanism on the internet is broken, possibly irreparably. Let’s summarize:
A content creator learns a fun fact about a shark. The content creator either googles the name of the shark and tweets out the first picture they see or they’re sent that photo from someone else. But it’s the wrong photo because an SEO farm run by random man from Wales has inserted the “misinformation” into Google’s search results. The content creator, though, has to mute the Twitter thread they’ve created because it’s gone too viral for anyone to actually follow. It’s also still doing traffic, so the content creator, when they finally learn that the tweet is incorrect, doesn’t actually delete the tweet. Then dozens of verified experts attempt to debunk the incorrect tweet, except all they’ve done is trick Twitter’s trending algorithms to further promote the tweet because of the attention being driven to the post.
The current landscape of the internet is essentially a series of levers and automations because the largest companies responsible for how we use the web are operating at a scale that can no longer be properly moderated by human beings. Which means, increasingly, that if a glitch makes its way into the system — in this instance, a photo of a monkfish incorrectly labeled as a shark — there is no chance for that glitch to be removed. And, even more confoundingly, if human beings do try and intervene, it only makes the glitch worse. idk seems bad!
A Brazilian Food Delivery Was Vandalized By Bolsominions
Last month, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, had a livestream deleted from both Facebook and YouTube in which he claimed that COVID-19 caused AIDS. A few days after Bolsonaro’s video was deleted, a popular podcaster named Bruno Aiub, or Monark, took to Twitter to vaguely subtweet about the incident, writing a bunch of blather about censorship and free speech. At one point he posted, “is having a racist opinion a crime?”
Aiub’s tweets weren’t vague enough, it seems, because one of the sponsors of his show, iFood, Brazil’s version of Seamless, announced they were parting ways with the podcaster. iFood issued a pretty strong statement against Aiub, telling local media, “iFood's purpose is to fuel the future of the world by promoting change and positively impacting society, which is why we are ending our sponsorship of [Aiub’s show]. We believe that it is no longer possible to be part of an unequal society, which is why we reject any kind of prejudice or act of discrimination.”
Unfortunately, not everyone working with iFood felt the same way. Followers of Bolsonaro are commonly referred to as “bolsominions,” and it seems like there was one who had access to iFood’s database.
An employee for a service provider working with iFood was authorized to change the names of restaurants listed on the app. According to a company statement, that employee was able to alter 6% of the restaurants on the app, changing their names to pro-Bolsonaro propaganda and messages against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the country’s Bernie Sanders equivalent who will likely be running against Bolsonaro during next year’s election.
The app is, for the most part, back to normal now, but the chaos it caused was intense. Definitely a new and interesting kind of digital vandalism I’ve never come across before.
A Good Tweet
An Interesting Reddit Predicament
This redditor is in quite a bind. He claims that his legal name is Optimus Prime, but he goes by Tim. “My mother was a complete nerd and my father was very, very indulgent. My feelings about it are complex and have evolved over time, but I don't resent them for it,” he writes.
But! Optimus wants to use his full legal name when he gets married. “My fiancee wants the officiant to use ‘Tim’ when he refers to me. I don't mind him using it for the majority, but when he says ‘do you XX take XX to be you lawful wedded wife’, I want him to use my real, full name.”
Alright, let’s see what the commenters have to say:
“NAH. You're both right. Easy solution: on your wedding program where you have the ‘how we met’ story, put your name story at the bottom as an ‘oh by the way, you should know...’”
“If you've NEVER used the name before then all you're doing is using it for shock value”
“YTA. No matter how much you insist otherwise, this really feels like you're doing it for the prank. You don't go by your birth name anywhere else in your life.”
What do you guys think? Is a wedding the right place to reveal your real name is Optimus Prime? Also, does naming your children after existing intellectual property actually protect their privacy from surveillance capitalism by making them unsearchable? Or is it just cringe?
A Really Good Tweet
You Can Now Ask An AI Director What It Thinks About Superhero Movies
Wish you could live out your dream of asking an old director what they think about superhero movies? Well, now you can do just that via the magic of artificial intelligence. Here’s a brief conversation I had with AI Lars Von Trier about the Avengers.
You can click here to mess around with it.
Speaking Of AI, Let’s Talk About Neural Blender
I’ve seen a ton of Neural Blender memes on Tumblr lately. If you’ve seen weird vague art in your feed, it’s likely coming from Neural Blender. You give it a prompt and it does its best to construct something that looks vaguely like the thing you gave it. The picture above is what it spit out when I typed in “Garbage Day”. Pretty good!
Welcome To Bitcoin City
Over the weekend, El Salvador’s hustle bro president, Nayib Bukele, announced that the country planned to build a “Bitcoin city” at the base of the Conchagua volcano. In September, El Salvador passed a law recognizing Bitcoin as legal tender. Ever since, the country has been awash in near-constant crypto hype. Last month, El Salvador began a pilot program attempting to use volcanos to mine the cryptocurrency.
This all sounds very impressive and cool, so, here’s a painfully uncomfortable video of someone trying to pay for a beer in El Salvador with Bitcoin.
While we’re talking about crypto, NFT artist @SHL0MS, who previously sold an NFT of a blank image for $19,000 and then fractionalized a smashed up toilet and sold it as NFT shards, said on Twitter over the weekend that an “unauthorized shl0ms exhibit” is currently hidden somewhere at the Museum Of Modern Art in New York City.
And, one last thing, there’s a new NFT project. It’s called Lil Baby Ape Club and it’s — wait, what’s that? It’s racist? And all the art is stolen? Ah, ok. I see.
The Zootopia Abortion Comic Finally Comes To An End
This one was a request from my friend Katie, who asked me to explain what the heck has been going on with the “the bisexual genderswapped JFK abortion Zootopia comic.” So, here we go.
William Borba is a Brazilian artist from Rio de Janeiro who is most famous for a comic depicting the main characters of the Disney film Zootopia, Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps, arguing about whether or not Hopps should get an abortion. The comic is titled, “I Will Survive,” and it launched a bunch of memes after it started going viral in late 2017. Panels from “I Will Survive” circulate pretty regularly. The fact that the comic takes place in the Seinfeld apartment adds a whole other weird dimension to it.
Borba has since made several Zootopia-inspired comics. In fact, what got lost in the viral hype is that there’s a sequel where Judy reveals that she’s bisexual, dumps Nick, and gets into a relationship with a female fox.
Borba’s newest Zootopia comic is titled, “Never Say Goodbye” and it’s, well, exactly how it was described above. In the comic, Judy Hopps is JFK and the female fox she dumped Nick for is Jackie. It’s pretty graphic (sorta). In the first pages of the comic, you think that Judy!JFK’s head explodes, but — spoiler alert — she’s actually just been shot in the face with cherry jam. Also, the comic seems to imply that JFK could have been assassinated by both the far-right and communists at the same time.
“Never Say Goodbye” has been closely followed by Reddit’s r/HobbyDrama subreddit. The final page of this newest comic reveals that all of Borba’s Zootopia projects are part of the same loosely-connected fan work, which was implied, but never really confirmed, I guess.
“With this page I finally end my creation of Zootopia fan comic series,” Borba wrote in the caption. “Since October 2016 we've come a long way, full of ups and downs, but finally it's time to rest. Thanks to all the people who have followed me all these years, whether they like the stories or not. It was a real roller coaster, wasn't it?”
So, there you go. Judy had an abortion, got a girlfriend, and then became president. The end.
Some Stray Links
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***