In May 2017, fidget spinners, which are toys originally developed to relieve stress that are made from a ball bearing with metal prongs that can be poked, spun, and flicked, and that supposedly help with mental focus, became wildly popular.
The gadgets’ popularity naturally meant they also became the subject of hoax stories. On 15 May 2017, for example, the web site Focus Times reported that a high school teacher in Columbus, Ohio had lost an eye in an accident involving a student’s fidget spinner:
A 42-year-old English teacher at a Columbus, OH high school has been seriously injured and lost one eye after a student’s fidget spinner broke at high speed in the classroom.
District officials have withheld the name of the school involved in the incident to protect the identity of the student, who is reportedly devastated that their fidget spinner was responsible for hurting the teacher.
The story cites “reports by local media” as saying that the purported incident took place while students were racing their fidget spinners in a classroom. However, we could find no reporting whatsoever of this incident, or any similar incident, in local or regional news media.
The story contains further telltale signs of fake news: It refers to “district officials” but not the name of the district; and it claims the name of the school has been withheld to protect the identity of the student — a move that would be unnecessary for that purpose.
Focus Times appears to be making hay out of the trend. A previous hoax story involved a man hospitalized after he lodged a fidget spinner in his anus.
On 10 May 2017, the web site ran an almost identical fake story centred around a “38-year-old English teacher” – this time in Phoenix, Arizona – who purportedly also lost an eye in a fidget spinner mishap.