Breaking: new websites are springing up to announce the death of President Muhammadu Buhari – or his attempted suicide.
They are, in fact, spoofs, purporting to be Metro newspaper of UK or Huffington Post of US, TheCable can report.
While “Metro” reported the “death” of Buhari, “Huffington Post” said he was caught “committing suicide”.
The two fake sites are operated by the same company.
The same picture of Buhari was used in both stories, and the line “The President’s decision to receive medical care in a foreign land has angered some of his countrymen” was repeated word-for-word.
The owners of the two sites are listed as WILD WEST DOMAINS on whois.domaintools.com. The sites were registered in Arizona, US.
“Huffington” was registered on November 19, 2016, and “Metro” on October 25, 2016.
At the weekend, “Metro” reported: “Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari dies in London”.
This sent the internet into a frenzy in Nigeria, and the fake story was picked up by blogs and the social media.
There were glaring loopholes in the story – it referred, for instance, to the “Nigerian embassy” in London, instead of “high commission”.
A bigger gaffe, though, was the attribution of the story to a statement issued by the Nigerian mission. If the president actually dies, the announcement will be made in Abuja, not London.
The brains behind the story were obviously unaware of this key protocol, but it is not unlikely they were carried away by the fact that the president is currently in London on a 10-day vacation, during which he said he would do a medical check-up.
Since he “died” in London, the announcement must be made in London!
If there was actually a statement by the Nigerian high commission, the global media will report it, not just “Metro”. It can’t be exclusive to “Metro”.
That the website is a spoof is apparent from the address, metro-uk.com. The real web address of Metro, a high-circulating free morning newspaper, is metro.co.uk. The logos, or mastheads, of the two Metros are very different.
Although the rumours were denied, and the president tweeted a picture of himself watching TV, the “news” had spread so fast that whoever was behind it must be smiling in satisfaction.
At least, they succeeded in drawing denials from the presidency, widely publicised in traditional and new media.
Mission accomplished. On to the next one.
The fake news merchants have stepped up their game, graduating from “Metro” to a global brand, “Huffington Post” of the US.
On Wednesday afternoon, huffingtonpost-fm.com reported that “Nigeria President’s security tightened after attempting Suicide”.
Aside the fact that real Huffington Post’s address is huffingtonpost.com (or huffingtonpost.co.uk for the UK edition), there is style inconsistency in the the headline: whereas other words are all in small letters, suicide uses the intial cap “S”. Huff Post uses small letters for its headlines.
The style of writing was also less than professional – something not to be associated with Huff Post.
The intro reads: “LONDON – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is under heavy security after his personal aides found him committing suicide in his London residence, local media reports.”
He was found committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide? Huff Post is more elegant in its use of English.
“According to local reports, the London Metropolitan Police has responded to the call by his personal assistance to provide additional security for the president”
Police has or have? It is a plural word, globally.
Personal assistance? They probably meant personal assistant.
Who is behind the fake news sites? The anonymity offered by the internet means it will be difficult to know.
This is not the first time that Buhari has been caught in the web of fake news: he was said to have donated $500 million to the failed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in the US.
The claim was attributed to a non-existent US non-governmental body.
“A US non-governmental group, the American Black Group for Democracy has revealed that the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari’s government plunged $500 million (About N150 billion) into the failed Hillary Clinton electioneering campaign fund,” the video claimed.
A fact check by TheCable disproved the story.
With more fake news to be expected, on to the next one then…