If you logged onto Facebook this weekend, there's a chance you came across an image of a fearsome-looking giant squid that had apparently washed up on the shores of Santa Monica, California. One of your acquaintances may have even shared the story.
The monstrous creature, according to the article on The Lightly Braised Turnip, measured "a whopping 160 feet from head to tentacle tip."
(Screenshot: The Lightly Braised Turnip)
Truly remarkable, considering that Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni tops out at around 45 feet. According to the news report, the squid's frightening size may have had something to do with "the waters near the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in the Futaba District of Japan" — where it apparently came from — spurring a "genetic mutation that triggered uncontrolled growth."
There's one tiny problem, of course: It's fake. All of it.
The somewhat obvious fictionality of the whole monster squid thing didn't stop the article from being liked and shared over 1.2 million times on Facebook. An impressive feat of virality, even by Upworthy's lofty standards.
A few quick points. Never mind that The Lightly Braised Turnip bills itself as — Onion-esquely — Santa Marino's "only source for news." Santa Marino doesn't exist, although San Marino in Los Angeles County does.
In fact, the "squid" part of the photo appears to belong to a Spanish photographer named Enrique Talledo, whose Facebook page you can look at here. Meanwhile, the crowd taking in the specimen appear to have come from an otherwise real news story about a beached whale that washed up on the coast of Chile in November 2011.
Finally, the master debunkers at Snopes also had the rather fun idea of getting some fresh air and cruising by the usually overcrowded beaches of Santa Monica to see if there was indeed a Godzilla-like monstrosity decaying on the sand. Surely, they thought, the combination of a popular tourist attraction combined with a revolutionary biological revelation like a giant sea creature would cause something of a local ruckus, right?
Nah. There was nothing there.
In other words, the elusive and lucrative alchemy for Facebook gold is (apparently): Outlandish claim plus iffy Photoshop job divided by bunk science and middling satire. Gotcha. Consider the Godzilla squid today's friendly reminder that nothing on the internet is real.