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Hoax Alert

Fake News: Police Did NOT Shoot Tim Cook After Mistaking iPhone For Gun

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Thu, 29 Mar 2018 20:29:23 Z)

Was Apple CEO Tim Cook shot multiple times by police during a press event for the upcoming iPhone 11 because they mistook the phone for a gun? Nope, that was just a piece of satire and social commentary from a satire website accompanied by a digitally altered photo.

The "news" appeared in an article published on March 29, 2018 by The Onion with the headline"Police Repeatedly Shoot Tim Cook After Mistaking iPhone For Gun" (archived here) which opened:

CUPERTINO, CA--Explaining that they took immediate action against what they perceived to be a threat, local police officers repeatedly shot Apple CEO Tim Cook after mistaking an iPhone he was holding for a gun, sources confirmed Thursday. "Law enforcement saw the suspect reach into his pocket and take out what looked like a firearm, and, believing their lives to be in danger, acted quickly to neutralize the assailant," said a spokesman for the Cupertino Sheriff's Office after an officer shot the CEO 18 times in under a minute at a press event for the upcoming iPhone 11.

Screenshot of https://www.theonion.com/police-repeatedly-shoot-tim-cook-after-mistaking-iphone-1824184361

The story would kind of look like a real news story when viewed in isolation in someone's timeline on social media:

Police Repeatedly Shoot Tim Cook After Mistaking iPhone For Gun

CUPERTINO, CA-Explaining that they took immediate action against what they perceived to be a threat, local police officers repeatedly shot Apple CEO Tim Cook after mistaking an iPhone he was holding for a gun, sources confirmed Thursday.

We wrote about theonion.com and some of their other satirical articles mistaken for real news before:

The Onion is one of the oldest and best known satire websites on the internet. Their about page claims:

The Onion is the world's leading news publication, offering highly acclaimed, universally revered coverage of breaking national, international, and local news events. Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.

In addition to maintaining a towering standard of excellence to which the rest of the industry aspires, The Onion supports more than 350,000 full- and part-time journalism jobs in its numerous news bureaus and manual labor camps stationed around the world, and members of its editorial board have served with distinction in an advisory capacity for such nations as China, Syria, Somalia, and the former Soviet Union. On top of its journalistic pursuits, The Onion also owns and operates the majority of the world's transoceanic shipping lanes, stands on the nation's leading edge on matters of deforestation and strip mining, and proudly conducts tests on millions of animals daily.

If you somehow find that hard to believe: you are right. Scroll down a bit futher on that page and you'll find this:

What if I want to sue The Onion?
Please do not do that. The First Amendment protects satire as a form of free speech and expression. The Onion uses invented names in all of its stories, except in cases where public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental. The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

Articles from The Onion are frequently mistaken for real news by people on social media that only see the headline, short description and thumbnail image. Being one of the best known satire sites their articles also frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites that don't carry a satire disclaimer. Always Google before sharing something that sounds improbable!

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk
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