If someone stole the Mona Lisa, it would be headline news worldwide. However, this hasn’t stopped crowds of TikTokers from saying that the Mona Lisa was stolen this weekend, with no real evidence that it’s true.
This hoax meme began with TikToker @narvanator, who posted some context-free footage of police vehicles with the title, “POV: you’re in Paris when the Mona Lisa has been stolen.” The TikTok doesn’t offer any further proof, and is captioned with a reference to the Minions franchise (“Grus been at it again!!”), suggesting it’s just a throwaway joke. But after going viral to the tune of 6.8 million views in two days, this TikTok sparked a semi-serious rumor that the Mona Lisa really has gone missing.
@narvanator Grus been at it again!! #fyp #fypシ #paris #paristiktok #monalisa #stolen #gru #despicableme ♬ original sound – Narvanator
The comments section is split between people joking about movies and TV shows featuring the Mona Lisa (Glass Onion; Ladybug and Cat Noir), and commenters who seemingly take the TikTok caption at face value (“I DIDNT SEE TIKTOK FOR 2 HOURS AND THE MONA LISA GOT STOLEN!?!?”). The rumor has since spread to Twitter, resulting in a bunch of “The Mona Lisa has been stolen?????” tweets with, once again, no further context.
Meanwhile, @narvanator posted a follow-up TikTok featuring a selfie from the Louvre, showing an empty picture frame in the background. “She’s gone!” he exclaims, adding that the Louvre staff didn’t have anything to say on the topic when he asked.
@narvanator Replying to @xXKhadijahXxR PART 2: Updates on the current sitch #fyp #fypシ #paris #paristiktok #monalisa #stolen #update #gru #despicableme ♬ original sound – Narvanator
To be clear, there are literally zero mainstream news reports that the Mona Lisa is missing. All the chatter about the Mona Lisa being “stolen” seems to originate from this one TikToker, with other reactions acting like a game of telephone. Some people are just repeating the “news” because they keep seeing it on their FYP and assume it’s true, but the most popular responses are actually TikTokers making fun of the hoax or trying to debunk it.
its w miles relaxxx♬ sure thing – 🏴🏴
@love.lemon.demon #stitch with @narvanator #misinformation #monalisa #paris #monalisastolen #stolen #fyp #dw ♬ original sound – I love lemon demon
Is it really stolen♬ som original – isa ✩
While this meme is a lot simpler than some of the more popular conspiracy theories on TikTok, it’s still a clear illustration of TikTok’s flaws as a news source. The rumor began with a TikTok that provided no meaningful information beyond a catchy headline. From then on, more discerning viewers could easily interpret that headline as a joke—but many others just believed it was true without googling a more reliable source. Complicating matters further, it’s hard to tell at a glance whether some reaction TikToks are joking or genuine.
That’s how we end up with even more context-free TikToks like this one, which literally just consists of the caption “the Mona Lisa is stolen?!” and some shaky footage of someone’s ceiling. It’s been viewed 84,000 times today:
@ifollowbackin.69seconds1 Mona Lisa stolen 2023 #stolen #monalisa ♬ Collide (more sped up) – Justine Skye
The Mona Lisa was actually stolen once before, back in 1911 when a Louvre employee walked out with the painting in a shockingly simple heist. This ultimately contributed to the Mona Lisa’s fame, making it a more desirable tourist attraction—and a tempting target for theft and vandalism. As a result, the Louvre’s security measures are extremely rigorous. So in the unlikely event that the Mona Lisa does go missing, it’s not the sort of news that will be revealed by a random tourist on TikTok. It will be everywhere.
The Daily Dot has reached out to @narvanator via TikTok comment. The Louvre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.