BuzzFeed busted for fake news in story about fake news

BuzzFeed journalists have no problem over-generalizing an entire group of people.

Graeme Gordon Montreal QC

BuzzFeed continues to litter the internet with trash reports and listicles since US President Donald Trump called it “a failing pile of garbage” for uncritically reporting on a fake dossier on Trump (paid for by his political opponents) back in 2017.

Shortly after the Notre Dame fire went viral online, BuzzFeed fake-news patrol journalists published an article—“Here Are The Hoaxes And Misinformation About The Notre Dame Fire”—claiming there was “zero evidence Muslims were responding to the fire with with ‘smiley faces.’” The article went on to say that Paul Joseph Watson, contributor to far-right conspiracy theorist website InfoWars, “tweeted a link to a video that claimed to show Muslim people celebrating the fire” and that the video “does not show what people on Facebook were reacting to.” The BuzzFeed journalists’ debunking of the alleged hoax concludes “there is no proof to back up this claim.”

Although InfoWars and Watson often carelessly publish conjecture and misinformation from social media, the video he cited was in fact a live feed of the Notre Dame burning from French media company Brut and there are now well over 2,000 smiley face reactions to the video.

After Watson made a response video ridiculing the fake news and misinformation in the BuzzFeed report on “hoaxes and misinformation,” the incorrect section of the article was reworked and an unclear correction issued at the bottom: “Paul Joseph Watson’s tweet showed the video where the Facebook reactions were posted. A previous version of the story said the source wasn’t clear.”

Yet the corrected version of the article still incorrectly says the video “purports to show positive reactions to a video of Notre Dame burning, implying that people with Arabic names are celebrating.” Anyone can take less than a minute to click on Brut’s video of Notre Dame burning and then click on the smiley face reactions to see that many of the people who chose that reaction have Arabic names.

The BuzzFeed journalists correctly concluded that “Facebook emojis on a video do not tell us anything about a group of people.” The smiley face emoticons were the minority of reactions to the video and Facebook has billions of users, so obviously a fraction of users will react grotesquely to bad news.

However, when it comes to right-wing extremism, these same BuzzFeed journalists have no problem over-generalizing an entire group of people.

In a joint ongoing investigation with the Toronto Star, BuzzFeed is looking into “political parties, third-party pressure groups, foreign powers, and individuals … influencing Canada’s political debate in the run-up to this fall’s federal election.” Thus, far their investigations have almost exclusively targeted far-right fringe groups when looking at domestic actors.

One report from the Toronto StarBuzzFeed investigation was on Faith Goldy and white nationalist groups being banned from Facebook. The report quoted Evan Balgord, the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, an organization that discriminates by only looking into hate involving far-right, white extremist groups and individuals within Canada, instead of all individuals and groups promoting hate in Canada.  

Coincidentally, the Trudeau government announced $7 million to divvy up between news monitors to “critically assess online news reporting.” It’s unclear whether BuzzFeed or the Toronto Star will be among the recipients to monitor the truth.

The Trudeau government is also waiting to give out most of $595 million to bail out political journalism after the election is completed.

Trudeau and his ministers have recently been repeating the talking point that white nationalism is a grave threat to Canada’s democracy.


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