Rumor Review

False news around al-Baghdadi’s death

Fake image of Omar crying

This week in The Sift® we examine several viral rumors related to the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of the Islamic State terrorist organization. Here’s our rundown:

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, did not cry, praise or offer condolences to the family of al-Baghdadi after he killed himself on Oct. 27 during a U.S. military raid. A “satirical news” website — Genesius Times — published a fictional piece last week based on this claim.  The photo of Omar used in the Genesius Times item (and in the Facebook post above) is from a news conference in April.

Note: While the Genesius Times’ tagline provides a prominent disclaimer in its header about the site’s lack of credibility (“The most reliable source of fake news on the planet”), the comments about this item on social media and on the website suggest that a significant number of people believed it.

Also note: The Genesius Times website contains ads placed by RevContent, a digital ad broker, and claims to be a participant in an affiliate advertising program run by Amazon.

Discuss: Does this website count as satire? Is its style of satire ethical?

False Paul Ryan Post

The man on the right is not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He is Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit organization that advocates for democracy in Syria. Moustafa posted this selfie to his Instagram account in May 2016 after meeting with then-House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the situation of civilians in Syria.

Fake CNN screenshot

CNN did not describe Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an “unarmed father of three” on a chyron during a news broadcast. CNN did not refer to the terrorist leader as a “brave ISIS freedom fighter” on screen during a broadcast. The image of CNN anchor Don Lemon in this fake screenshot is not from October 2019. It has been around since at least December 2018.

Note: As the fact check from Snopes points out, this fake screenshot appears to be an allusion to a headline on The Washington Post’s website that referred to Baghdadi as an “austere religious scholar,” prompting sharp criticism.

Discuss: Do you think that this fake screenshot was created as a joke? Is there evidence that it tricked people who saw it online? Why do people manipulate screenshots of newscasts? Once a fake screenshot is created, can it be controlled online? What direct or indirect effects might this fake screenshot have when someone mistakes it as authentic?