No, a ‘diarrhea outbreak’ didn’t shut down a Winnipeg strip club and other fake news
A story from the Alberta Times reported that a strip club in Winnipeg was shut down due to an “outbreak of severe diarrhea” – which didn’t happen.
The story, which was full of scatological detail, never actually named the strip club. It did blame the outbreak on some bad shrimp at the free buffet and described the horrifying effects it had on the dancers.
The Alberta Times, it should be noted, isn’t the longstanding news outlet it claims to be. BuzzFeed notes that the website was only registered in June, and although it claims to have existed since the 1800s and won several journalism awards, no one seems to have heard of it.
The story itself is an old one. A nearly identical story about a strip club in Jacksonville, Fla., surfaced earlier this year and was debunked by Snopes.com and others. For the Winnipeg edition, the purported quotes from patrons are the same, but the name of the city has been changed.
Here are some other notable stories in the world of fake news this week:
- Old Twitter bots used in support of U.S. President Donald Trump were revived for last spring’s presidential election in France, according to a study reported on by several news outlets. Thousands of bot accounts were created ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, then went dormant for months, only to start tweeting again just in time for France’s election, researcher Emilio Ferrara told The Hill. He’s not sure who was behind the bot campaign.
- Another BuzzFeed article this week went after claims that the Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. in 2016 was actually a left-wing operative with ties to Hillary Clinton, John McCain or the Obama administration. The claim originated from an old photo showing lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at a committee hearing about U.S. policy towards Russian in 2014, sitting behind the U.S. Ambassador – an Obama appointee. The story took off from there, with websites describing her as sitting with the ambassador. Eventually, various right-wing pundits began suggesting that the meeting was all a Democratic plot. President Trump himself even mentioned her in a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump was asked Thursday whether his son should have gone to the FBI upon reviving an email arranging a meeting with a Russian lawyer, as his own pick to head the FBI believes.
READ MORE: Key figures in the Trump Jr. email chain
- A photoshopped image of Russian President Vladimir Putin circulated among Russian media personalities early in the week. It showed Putin at the G20, surrounded by scowling world leaders. However, as BuzzFeed noted, it was a bad fake. The original picture had the leaders surrounding an empty chair marked “United Kingdom.” Putin was added in and the nameplate was changed, but his lighting and posture didn’t match the rest of the photo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also photoshopped to appear to be wearing a ribbon that’s a symbol of Russian nationalism.
- The New York Times published an interesting tale of an early example of fake news. In the summer of 2008, Irish journalist Declan Varley invented a fake soccer player to show how overhyped soccer coverage could be. His phantom player, “Masal Bugduv,” made it into at least one list of the top 50 most promising young players in Europe. The hoax was eventually exposed, as soccer fans came to realize that there was no mention of Bugduv on any rosters of soccer teams and news articles and blog posts about the Moldovan prodigy contained many errors.
- A pair of articles showed just how close we are to convincing fake video – though of course there have been notable examples in the past. The Economist described how a fake video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up” was made, and the Atlantic posted a clip from University of Washington researchers who had made a very realistic fake video of Barack Obama giving a speech. The researchers pulled together lots of footage of Obama’s face and created an algorithm that had him “lip synch” along with audio files of old interviews he had given. They trained their algorithm to imitate Obama’s facial expressions and mouth movements with very convincing results.
WATCH: University of Washington team creates a realistic video of Obama speaking in the White House by feeding an algorithm audio clips from old interviews.
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