When fast news goes wrong: August 2015
What happens when the speed of online news dissemination outstrips reality? Here’s our pick of premature conclusions, social media misfires and hoaxes taken at face value over the last couple of weeks.
Taken for a bride
It seemed like an outrageous tale of male stupidity and chauvinism: an Algerian groom sued his bride for damages the day after their wedding because she looked ugly without her make-up on. According to the Mail, the Mirror, the Express and various other news sources, the groom saw his wife’s natural looks the morning after their wedding and thought she was a burglar – and when he realised it was his wife he sued her for £13,000 in damages for causing untold psychological harm. The newspapers named as their source UAE newspaper Emirates 24/7, which itself credited unnamed “north African Arab newspapers” for the original story. It was, in fact, a single newspaper, El Manchar, which is Algeria’s version of The Onion. El Manchar, which has a disclaimer on its site saying it’s full of “completely absurd and false information”, happily tweeted the news that its nonsense story was trending on social media.
Last to breaking news
A shocking story about a father in Dubai letting his drowning daughter die rather than have a male lifeguard touch her is, unfortunately, true. However, the dozens of media outlets worldwide that reported this story in early August were a little out of date – the incident took place in 1996. Again, the source was Emirates 24/7, which only clarified that its headline (“Dad lets daughter die, rather than be rescued by ‘strange’ rescuer”) wasn’t a recent incident in the final sentence of the article, with the line ‘The incident happened many years ago’. Unless that last sentence was sneakily added by Emirates 24/7 after its original publication in order to save face, it would appear that the journalists reproducing the story had a rather short attention span.
Numerous media outlets were fooled by an Instagram account purportedly belonging to Abdou Diouf, a Senegalese migrant who was using social media to document his perilous journey to Europe. Diouf seemed suspiciously social media-savvy, and cheery about his journey – a photo of him looking exhausted and miserable after a two-day walk in the summer heat is hashtagged #backpacker, #nature and #bored. Indeed, it wasn’t real – it was a hoax designed to promote the Getxophoto festival in northern Spain. Diouf was played by Hagi Toure, a handball player who’s lived in Barcelona for the past ten years.
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