What Major News Stories of the 2010s Turned Out to be False?

Fake news has been a big, problematic trend during the decade of 2010s. It has been a roller-coaster decade for news media, as it is full of political upsets and shock outcomes. The proliferation of fake news sites’ articles easily shared across social media caused a lot of misinformation to the masses.

After being fact-checked, it became apparent that some stories were almost entirely fabricated. Here are some of the major fake news narratives reported on but somehow turned out to be false.

Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for president

During the 2016 US presidential elections, a site called WTOE 5 News published the hoax story, “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President.” It quoted the pope saying that the FBI’s inability to prosecute Hilary Clinton led him to endorse Trump. By November 8, that same year, the story has picked up almost a million Facebook engagements.

Pope Francis quickly cleared the air and spoke publicly about US elections for the first time, saying, “I never say a word about electoral campaigns.” Traditionally, popes are politically independent, and this is also the reason why fake news became popular anyway. The pope also spoke out against the dangers of fake news, calling it a sickness.


Pizzagate has become the most high-profile example of fake news gone seriously wrong in the decade. The Pizzagate conspiracy theories emerged after WikiLeaks published the emails in Hilary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. Podesta’s email was hacked in a spear-phishing attack. After reading the emails, online communities like Reddit and 4chan began theorizing possible double meanings from the exchanges. They collectively decided that the emails about social gatherings involving “pizza” was a code for a secret human trafficking and child sex abuse ring. Proponents also claimed that the Washington pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was the child sex ring.

However, there was no evidence to support claims that the Comet is up to any wrongdoing. The news has been extensively discredited by a lot of organizations, including the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, stating that the matter is a fictitious conspiracy theory. The fake news caused a man from North Carolina to fire a rifle inside of the restaurant, and the restaurant owners and staff received death threats due to this theory.

“Hands up, don’t shoot.”

“Hands up, don’t shoot!” These are phrases that rose to public consciousness following the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Faulty witness accounts have spread the rumors that Michael Brown had his hands up to signify surrender, and mouthed the words “don’t shoot” before being shot by cop Darren Wilson. This phrase launched protests and calls for police accountability and reform against the killing of Brown and other African Americans by the police.

Despite the ambiguity of Brown’s hand position during the shooting, the slogan was adopted at protests, especially during the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter is a movement that claims that there is racial bias in police shootings. However, the grand jury couldn’t confirm the narrative, and neither could the department of Justice. The DOJ investigation found that the “hands up” gesture was inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence and witness testimony regarding the shooting of Michael Brown.

That’s not to say that the protesters did not have valid concerns about what happened in Ferguson or around the country. We are just presenting the facts.

Obama signs executive order to ban the Pledge of Allegiance in schools

Fake news publishers in August 2016 apparently ran out of original ideas for this fake news. They reported that President Obama had issued an executive order banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in the USA. The news claims that it’s the most controversial move of Obama’s presidency and that Obama allegedly explained that this was based on a personal belief that the language used in the pledge is divisive and contrary to American values.

This news is just another recycled hoax promulgated by malware-spreading fake news sites that uses the trademarks of legitimate news companies such as ABC News. The reason why this news became controversial is that it was published under a reputable name in media.

Hilary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and was confirmed by WikiLeaks

Stemming again from the leaked Podesta emails, a number of news sites have published the story wherein WikiLeaks proved Hilary Clinton had sold weapons to ISIS. Hilary Clinton has repeatedly denied that she sold weapons to the Islamic Stats while in position as the Secretary of State during public testimony in early 2013. News sites began reporting that WikiLeaks confirms it.

In 2016, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, contended that the emails painted a picture of Clinton’s hawkish tendencies with respect to the Libyan intervention, and referred to ISIS as the eventual beneficiary of weapons provided for that intervention. But they do not directly confirm that Clinton sold weapons to ISIS.

Measles returned because of misinformation against vaccines.

In May 2019, the biggest number of measles cases was recorded in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By November, CDC confirmed that more than 1,200 people had been infected in 31 states. Measles was eradicated 20 years ago worldwide, and the US lost its measles-free status, as well as several other countries.

Internet misinformation crisis fueled the return of measles, as anti-vax websites and groups have flourished online. The measles outbreak is proof that even in medicine, progress doesn’t keep a straight line.