On 13 June 2017, the web site United News published an article claiming that a young man in Calgary had cut off his penis after attaching razor blades to a toy called a fidget spinner:
A 23-year old man is recovering in hospital after an accident involving a modified fidget spinner went horribly wrong. According to reports by local media, the man had attached a razor blade to the device before the accident occurred.
His distraught mother spoke to reporters while doctors tried in vain to reattach her son’s severed penis. “He ordered a few fidget spinners online a couple months ago,” she said. “I had no idea that they could be so dangerous, otherwise I wouldn’t have let him play with them.”
This is not a real news story. United News purports to be a genuine news site (in fact, their “About Us” page declares that their mission is “to delivery [sic] high-quality journalism”), but there are several ways to tell that this story is fake.
For one, the article lacks specific details, such as the name of the name of the man involved in the incident or the hospital where he received treatment. We also searched for reports about the incident in Canadian publications such as The Calgary Herald, the CBC, and CTV, but found no mention of a man cutting off his penis with a fidget spinner adorned with blades.
This isn’t the first fake news story to be generated in the wake of the fidget spinner craze. Other outlets have falsely claimed that one of these toys became lodged in a woman’s vagina, that they were altering the earth’s gravity, and that they caused a schoolteacher to lose an eye.