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Fake News: BBC Did NOT Report Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Survived Assassination Attempt

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Fri, 10 Aug 2018 09:51:51 Z)

Was Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti almost assasinated today and did the BBC report on this news? No, that's not true: the rumor was started by a fake news site pretending to be BBC Radio. The fake site is likely part of a larger network of fake news sites. The news is not real, Biti is alive and there was no assasination attempt.

The story originated from an article published by a site named radio-bbc.com (not the real BBC) on August 10, 2018 titled "Zimbabwe opposition leader survives assassination attempt - BBC" (archived here) which opened:

Harare- Senior Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti on Friday morning narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by unknown people who broke into his home.

This came a day after he was released on $5,000 bail following court charges of inciting public to protest on the Zimbabwe's presidential election outcome.

Screenshot of http://www.radio-bbc.com/2018/08/10/zimbabwe-opposition-leader-survives/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Zimbabwe opposition leader survives assassination attempt - BBC

Harare- Senior Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti on Friday morning narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by unknown people who broke into his home. This came a day after he was released on $5,000 bail following court charges of inciting public to protest on the Zimbabwe's presidential election outcome. Loading... Biti had sought asylum by attempting ...

But at the time of writing, this was the latest story mentioning Biti on the website of BBC News, dated August 9, 2018:

Handcuffed Zimbabwe politician in court

Zimbabwean opposition politician Tendai Biti has appeared in court in handcuffs on charges of inciting violence after he was deported from Zambia. Zambia's government rejected Mr Biti's request for asylum on Wednesday. Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mr Biti had been released on bail following his intervention.

We wrote about radio-bbc.com before, here is our most recent article that mentioned the site:

Back then we remarked that the site shared several traits with another network of fake news website we wrote about earlier:

Global Fake News Network Responsible For Dozens of Death Hoaxes Shuts Down After Ghana Connections Revealed | Lead Stories

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. On April 17, 2018 former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away but a full day earlier an article prematurely announcing her death from a website pretending to be CNN managed to rack up a combined 2.3 million likes, shares and comments on Facebook.

The fake BBC Radio website seems to have several themes in common with several sites of that network:

  • A domain name of the form [REAL NEWS BRAND] in combination with a dash and [tv/radio/news/television]
  • Stories aimed at various parts of the world (Philippines, USA, UK, various African countries).
  • Death hoaxes
  • Similar javascripts to prevent right clicking (now apparently removed)

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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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