40 Fake Viral Photos That Fooled The Internet

By: Mia Williams | Published: Dec 20, 2021

Millions of photos get posted on the internet every single day. Some of these photos are intended to surprise, entertain, or confuse people, ultimately encouraging them to share these photos on their social media accounts. However, when a photo is super interesting, these images often go viral, racking up millions of likes, shares, and comments.

One must always keep in mind that not everything that gets posted online is real. Modern technology has made it much easier to manipulate photos and deceive people. Here are 40 examples of fake viral photos that fooled the internet.

1. The Perfect Photo

This image of the moon sitting on top of a skyscraper was widely shared on social media. The photo appears to show nature and the man-made world coming together in complete harmony. However, the photo isn’t quite what it seems.

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The image of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai was taken by a Seattle-based photographer named Mo Aoun. The photo was then edited to make the moon appear slightly bigger. Furthermore, the moon was moved to the right so that it’s perfectly positioned on top of the helipad.

2. Einstein Cycling Amid Chaos

People couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw this photo of Albert Einstein causally riding a bicycle while a bomb explodes in the background. As it turns out, the photo is fake. It’s actually a composite of two different images.

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Given that the photo of the bomb explosion was captured seven years after Einstein’s passing, there’s no way that he could have been around to see it. However, the picture of Einstein riding a bicycle is real. It was taken in Santa Barbara in 1933.

3. Golden Lanterns in India

This photo shows the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India during Diwali, a religious festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists in the country. The photo shows thousands of lanterns illuminating the night sky as people below look on.

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While this is a beautiful photo, it was digitally altered. The original image merely shows the temple brightly lit up against the night sky. The edited photo was shared thousands of times online, with several celebrities posting it on their social media pages.

4. Selfie Game is Too Strong

This photo of a pilot taking a selfie from the cockpit window of a plane appears to show the lengths some people would go to take the perfect photo. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a selfie, we find it hard to believe that a pilot would even think of doing this.

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Thankfully, the photo turned out to be fake. While the original photo does show a pilot taking a selfie out of a cockpit window using a selfie stick, the plane was safely parked on the ground.

5. Making Waves on the Internet

This photo caused a stir when it was posted online. People were impressed by how this chef skillfully moved his wok to create a perfectly-shaped wave of fried rice. This led to a trend of people attempting to recreate this photo and posting the results online.

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However, many people were disappointed to learn that while the wave of fried rice does exist, there is no Photoshop trickery involved. It’s merely a sculpture that is sold at a fake food shop in Tokyo, Japan. 

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6. Leo the Lion

This photo has become the subject of much discussion on the internet, with many people claiming that this image shows the making of Hollywood movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s iconic production logo. As expected, people were outraged by the movie studio’s supposed cruelty to animals.

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However, it was later discovered that the photo above is not of MGM’s mascot Leo the Lion at a studio, but of a lion named Samson getting a CAT scan after falling ill at the Hai-Kef zoo near Tel Aviv, Israel. 

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7. Head in the Clouds

This photo of a Space Shuttle was shared millions of times online. It shows the spacecraft breaking through a layer of clouds during liftoff. It appears as though the photo was taken by a passenger of a plane flying near the launch site.

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In reality, the photo was heavily edited. The original photo shows the Space Shuttle on the ground before liftoff. It may not have been as exciting or dramatic a picture as the edited version, but it was no less impressive!

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8. A Black Lion?

This photo of what appears to be a black lion has been circulating online for years. The image never fails to cause a stir whenever it gets shared online, with people expressing their amazement at this unique creature.

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The photo, however, is a digitally edited and recolored one. It was first posted on the online art community deviantART in 2012. The original photo is actually that of a white lion. While albino creatures are certainly real, dark-colored equivalents don’t exist.

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9. Diwali Lights Seen From Space

This is another online hoax that is centered around Diwali. This satellite photo of India quickly went viral when it was first shared online. The photo supposedly shows large parts of the country lit up for the annual festival of lights.

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While the photo is certainly beautiful, it has absolutely nothing to do with the festival. The photo, as it turns out, is simply a regular satellite image of India (and some of its neighboring countries) that was shaded in different colors.

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10. A Rare Monkey from Madagascar

This photo of what is said to be a rare monkey from the island nation of Madagascar off the coast of East Africa has been making the rounds online. It’s amazing to think that such adorable creatures exist in the world.

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Though there are certainly cute animal species out there (go ahead and Google what a sugar glider is!), a closer look reveals that the image is, in fact, an edited shot of a doll. The doll is an Inari Fox model manufactured by a Russian company called Santani Workshop.

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11. A Fluffy Feline With Human-like Eyebrows

Dozens of social media users have fallen victim to this hoax. This photo supposedly shows a fluffy gray and white cat with human-like white eyebrows and a mustache. However, while the mustache pattern on the cat’s face is real, the eyebrows aren’t.

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Imagine picking up a kitten from an animal shelter only to realize that it has eyebrows similar to that of a human’s! Would that be something that would scare you, or would it be something you’d find adorable?

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12. Caught On Camera

This photo, which shows a group of unlucky photographers fleeing from an aggressive bear, sure looks terrifying. However, it’s hard to believe that such a life-threatening situation would be captured on camera. As it turns out, this image is fake.

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The photographers weren’t in any danger, and the image of the bear was from a stock photo that can easily be searched online. Even if the photo was fake, many people still found it amusing and shared it on social media.

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13. “Frozen” in Real Life

This photo that supposedly shows Venice’s famous canals completely frozen over has been circulating online for many years now. However, while this photo may look stunning, it was faked. Venice’s canals would sometimes freeze, but this is extremely rare.

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This photo is an edited composite of two images, one of Venice and another of a frozen Lake Baikal in Southern Siberia. Due to Russia’s cold climate, you are way more likely to see frozen bodies of water there than in Venice.

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14. Straight Out of a Fairy Tale

This beautiful photo looks straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. Just like all fairy tales, this photo was completely made up it was created using photo editing software. To make this image, two separate photos were spliced together.

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The photo on the lower right-hand corner is that of a rock formation in Thailand, while the photo on the upper right-hand corner is that of a castle in Germany. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the image from circulating online, with many people thinking that such a place exists.

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15. Dwarf Giraffe

This photo of a so-called dwarf giraffe has been shared thousands of times on social media by people thinking that it’s real. In reality, the giraffe in the photo is simply a Photoshopped version of an ordinary giraffe.

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Dwarfism is a condition that has been observed in some animals in the wild. However, animals with dwarfism typically don’t live long lives. Their small size makes them an easy target for predators, making it unlikely for them to live well into adulthood.

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16. The First Dab Captured on Camera

If you spend a lot of time on social media, you’ve likely seen this image before. It allegedly shows the first time that someone did “the dab” on camera. The men in the photo are supposedly soldiers on a ship during the First World War.

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This photo was in fact taken on the set of the 2017 Christopher Nolan film, Dunkirk. The movie was a commercial and critical success and won multiple Oscars, but it still wasn’t enough to stop social media users from falling for this hoax.

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17. Turtle Head

This photo of a rocky cliff face that looks like a turtle’s head has been circulating on various social media sites for quite some time now. Mother nature is indeed incredible, but unfortunately, this big turtle-like mountain doesn’t exist anywhere on this planet.

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As it turns out, the mountain in the picture is Pilot Mountain in Surry County, North Carolina. Its cliff face does not look like a turtle at all this is simply another case of a photo being manipulated to deceive people online.

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18. A Cyclist Being Chased By a Bear

This photo showing a cyclist being chased by a bear was also widely shared on social media. People were shocked and horrified to see such a life-threatening situation caught on camera. However, the photo isn’t real.

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Interestingly, it was the cyclist and not the bear that was superimposed onto the photo. Imagine witnessing this while driving along this road – what would you do? Would you try to help the man, or would you also try to make a run for it? Luckily, this photo is fake and no one was truly in danger.

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19. Two Hollywood Icons

This photo of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor has been posted and shared on social media thousands of times, but unfortunately, this one is fake. It certainly would have been amazing to see these two Hollywood icons together in the same photo, though.

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One talented editor decided to combine two separate images to make it seem as if the two women were in the same photo. Marilyn Monroe has been the subject of edited photos on multiple occasions, with people placing her in photos with other celebrities like Elvis Presley.

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20. Cow On Hood

This massive bovine was supposedly photographed resting on the hood of a parked car. You certainly wouldn’t want to see an animal as huge as this sitting on top of your car – just imagine all the damage that a 1,500-pound creature would cause!

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People eventually figured out that the photo was fake. While the photo certainly does look realistic, the cow was simply edited onto the image to make it appear as if it was resting on the hood of the car.

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21. Tip of the Iceberg

If you Google the word “iceberg,” the photo below is probably one of the first images you will see when looking at the search results. This photo has been used on motivational posters for many years, as it appears to represent the saying, “tip of the iceberg.”

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This photo, taken by photographer Ralph Clevenger, shows only a tiny portion of the glacier peeking above the ocean’s surface, with most of the iceberg hidden underneath. In reality, the photo is actually four different images spliced together.

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22. A Unique Island

This star-shaped island is an absolute paradise! Seeing this picture makes you wish you were here instead, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t accurately show what this place looks like in real life. 

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While this photo may seem realistic, it has been drastically edited. The crescent moon-shaped island is the only aspect that does exist – it’s called Molokini, located somewhere in the ʻAlalākeiki Channel between the islands of Maui and Kaho’olawe in Hawaii.

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23. The World’s Biggest Cat

This viral photo of what appears to be the world’s largest cat will surely make any crazy cat lady out there green with envy. This cat looks so soft and squishy, and we just can’t help but fall in love with it!

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Unfortunately, this photo is fake. It has been digitally altered to make this fluffy feline appear much larger than it actually is. In reality, this cat is average in size. Gigantic or not, this cat is still adorable!

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24. Beware of the Shark

No list of fake viral photos would be complete without the classic “shark in flood” photo. Nearly every significant flooding event has led to a deluge of fake photos that show sharks swimming around flooded city streets and freeways. 

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After Hurricane Irma struck parts of the US in September of 2017, this photo was digitally altered to make it seem like a shark was swimming down a freeway. Many people were quick to realize that this was a hoax, but many others still fell for it anyway.

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25. Fake Archaeological Finds

Believe it or not, this picture has been fooling internet users since the early 2000s! The image, which shows an archaeologist unearthing a gigantic human skull and other bones, has been shared on various blogs and internet forums, with many people calling it an “important” archaeological discovery.

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As it turns out, the photo was faked, and no giant human bones were ever discovered. However, many online news outlets still covered this story anyway. With this in mind, please do exercise caution when surfing the web not everything that’s being shared online is real!

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26. Paris Hilton’s Shirt

This photo of American media personality, socialite, entrepreneur, and DJ Paris Hilton has been circulating online for years. The photo, in which she is shown wearing a shirt that says “Stop Being Poor,” is often used as an example of her supposed insensitivity and total disdain for people who aren’t as wealthy as she is.

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In reality, the message on her shirt read, “Stop Being Desperate.” While her shirt did have a similarly snarky slogan on it, the slogan was nowhere near as terrible as what was on the edited photo. Unfortunately, no amount of damage control could stop all the hate that came her way.

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27. Another Faked Moon Photo

This photo of the New York City skyline is authentic, for the most part. The silhouette of the city’s famous skyscrapers contrasting with the night sky is real, and so are the bright lights glimmering in the background.

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However, you can immediately tell that this photo has been edited because of one important detail. Can you take a guess? Like many fake viral images circulating online, this one has been artificially enhanced to include an unrealistically large moon.

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28. Photoshopped at Taj Mahal

Many influencers are known to retouch or edit their photos before posting them on social media. Fashion and beauty blogger Amelia Liana once sparked controversy after posting this photo of herself at the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra.

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While this photo is indeed beautiful, and Liana really did visit the iconic mausoleum, it’s obvious that the photo has been heavily edited. There is an obvious lack of other tourists, and the monument’s reflection in the water is distorted.

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29. Fake Clouds

Lenticular clouds are stationary clouds with a lens-like appearance. These clouds are formed when stable, moist air runs perpendicular to a mountain or a range of mountains. Due to their appearance, lenticular clouds are sometimes suggested as an explanation for various UFO sightings.

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Lenticular clouds look amazing enough in their natural state, but this hasn’t stopped people from posting heavily-edited photos online. No matter how realistic the photo above looks, it simply isn’t authentic. If you use this phony photo as your desktop background, you may want to consider changing it.

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30. Sharks Swimming In a Mall

This is yet another photo of sharks found swimming in an unlikely place. Unlike the previous freeway photo, this one was said to have been taken at a flooded shopping mall in Pennsylvania after Hurricane Ida hit the area in September of 2021.

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The image, however, was edited to add in the sharks. The original photo – taken in 2012 – shows the flooded concourse of the Royal Bank Plaza in Toronto. If the photo were real, can you imagine riding an escalator down to a mall’s flooded basement with sharks waiting for you at the bottom? You’d probably never want to go to a mall again!

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31. Purple Trees

This photo supposedly shows a forest full of beautiful purple trees in a remote area of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. However, this is completely false. This is a photo of the Shotover River, located in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island.

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In reality, the trees are just a regular shade of forest green. Many people believed that the photo was legit when it became viral. Some even traveled to the Isle of Skye in Scotland hoping to see the purple trees. Uh oh!

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32. Getting A Bit Too Comfortable in Public

We’d understand if you laughed out loud upon seeing this photo on Tumblr, Twitter, or Reddit. To see someone perched on the receptionist’s desk like this while waiting in line at the DMV or dentist’s office seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

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The photo on the left was edited. However, the original photo on the right is odd nonetheless. It shows a woman standing in front of the receptionist with one foot on the metal bar in front of her. Why would anyone even do such a thing?

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33. A Glitching Cabinet

This photo instantly went viral after it was posted online, as it purportedly shows a cabinet that was meticulously carved to look like it was glitching. Thousands of people shared the photo, believing it to be a perfect example of fine craftsmanship.

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And as it turns out, the photo was digitally manipulated to look like this! The “glitching cabinet” is just a regular old wooden cabinet. While it’s still a beautifully carved piece of furniture, it’s nowhere near as cool as everyone thought it was.

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34. A Botched Sign

It’s rather amusing that a college of architecture and planning would make such a mess of their signage! This photo that shows a botched sign has been shared more than a million times on social media. However, while the photo looks authentic, it is actually an edited one.

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The ‘C’ in ‘college’ was placed on the adjacent wall and the rest of the letters were moved to the left. In reality, all the letters were perfectly placed. It would have been hilarious if the edited photo were real!

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35. Lightning Bolt Hitting A Tree

Just like many of the photos we’ve seen so far, this one is stunning, but – as you might have already guessed – completely fake. This one is supposedly a long exposure shot of a lightning bolt hitting a tree.

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Even though this image has undoubtedly been manipulated and photoshopped, it is one of the first to appear in search results for ‘lightning hitting a tree.’ And, while we would never participate in spreading anything fake, we have no issue viewing it. After all, it is pretty skillfully edited.

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36. Blue Watermelon

This photo of a blue-colored watermelon went viral on Tumblr. The photo, which supposedly shows a rare variety of watermelon called the “moon melon,” was reblogged on the microblogging site more than a thousand times.

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However, there is a catch — “moon melons” don’t exist. The photo was simply that of a regular watermelon that has been Photoshopped to look blue. This is proof that you should always do some fact-checking before posting anything online!

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37. Flooded Sydney Harbour Bridge

Since 2015, this same photo gets circulated during stormy weather in Metropolitan Sydney. The photo shows a powerful surge of water flowing from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and into the harbor below. Some people have claimed that this photo was sent to them by a friend or family member who works near the bridge.

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However, this photo has already been debunked by a spokesperson for the Roads and Maritime Services, a now-defunct government agency. The spokesperson told Mashable that they would be “very surprised” if this would ever happen. He also said that cars wouldn’t even be allowed on the bridge if there was this much water.

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38. The Statue of Liberty

While it’s true that Hurricane Sandy did cause widespread flooding in New York City and other parts of the Northeastern United States, this particular image is not an actual photo from the storm. This one is from the 2004 science fiction disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal.

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Although the photo has been completely misrepresented by many people on social media, it’s understandable when you consider the fact that Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest, strongest, and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. 

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39. George Orwell’s Old House

This viral photo is a perfect example of irony. It shows a CCTV camera placed outside George Orwell’s former London residence. Orwell is an author best known for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which he warns readers about the dangers of widespread surveillance of people.

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The photo has been traced to a man who used it as his Facebook cover photo back in 2012. Since then, the photo has been shared over 60,000 times. However, this image is fake – the CCTV camera was just edited into the photo of the house.

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40. Plankton on a Petri Dish

This photo – which supposedly shows the number of plankton that can be found in just a single drop of seawater – has been circulating online for years. This interesting fact caused the image to go viral, with many people expressing their amazement at the workings of nature.

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However, although the photo isn’t fake, the caption is deceiving. In reality, the image shows the amount of plankton in a pool-sized sample of seawater. What’s more, the plankton found in the sample would only fill a tiny glass.

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