Fake News Site Hoodwinks Many
The NBA has not announced it is moving the 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte if North Carolina lawmakers and Governor Pat McCrory do not repeal an anti-LGBT law within the next month. A fake "news" site this weekend claimed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in a news conference they had 30 days to repeal HB2 or he would move the game out of state.
"With this new law in place, Charlotte currently does not have any anti-discrimination protection in place, something that would be vital for a large event such as the All-Star Game," the fake news site, ABCNews.com.co wrote, falsely quoting NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Cleveland.com reported the fake story, including the same quote, in an article with an AP byline, without noting its source. PinkNews, an LGBT news site in England, also published the fake "news," and also did not note its source. The Sun-Times network also reported the story, later.
It does not appear that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference today.
"We are giving the state of North Carolina 30 days to repeal this law or they can expect the 2017 All-Star game to be held elsewhere. I want to make it clear that the NBA will not stand for this type of intolerance and hate," the fake "ABC News" site wrote.
The fake news site forced the NBA to tweet a response denying it:
RT @NBAPR No truth to the fake abcnews account/report concerning the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. The NBA has made no new statements re: 2017 ASG— NBA (@NBA) April 10, 2016
But many on social media understandably thought the story was true, leading at least one local journalist to attempt to correct the record.
NCRM called the AP to in an attempt to get the story corrected, or verify its accuracy, but was transferred to a voicemail box by an AP telephone operator that was full.
UPDATE I: 7:56 PM EDT –
The AP story has been taken down at Cleveland.com, with no explanation or correction. Other AP outlets have published it. Here's a screenshot of the original:
And here is it at Archive.org.
UPDATE II: April 11 1:03 PM EDT –
The Associated Press reached out to NCRM several times since we first published this report. We offered to publish their explanation:
"The Associated Press did not publish the story and Cleveland.com erroneously published with an AP byline."
Additionally, Chris Quinn, Vice President of Content, at Cleveland.com, the news site that published the story including the AP byline, Monday afternoon posted a lengthy mea culpa – something good publishers sometimes have to do (I speak from experience!)
Quinn, in part, writes that "over the weekend, someone created a site that carefully mimicked the ABC news website and included a fake story about the NBA threatening to pull next year's All Star Game out of Charlotte in protest of North Carolina's new law. At cleveland.com, we saw that story, believed it to be real and decided to post the news on our website."
That was our first mistake. This kind of news rarely is reported by a single national news organization. We should have found other sources, and, finding none, questioned how ABC would be alone in reporting this story. If we had done the basics, we would have figured out pretty quickly that we were seeing an impostor ABC website.
Our second mistake was in how we reported the fake news. We combined it with an Associated Press story about the North Carolina controversy but left the AP byline on what we published. That made it appear that the Associated Press had been duped by the impostor website. That's not fair to the Associated Press, a valued partner for cleveland.com.
We have now updated this story in three ways, for accuracy and fairness, given this new information. First, we removed from the very first sentence at the top a reference to the AP. Second, we have added this update, and the one before it, both clearly marked. Third, we have adjusted the story to reflect that the Cleveland.com story was published with an AP byline, changing our statement that the AP appeared to have published the article – even though, clearly, it did appear so (screenshot above).
A few things more. First, NCRM published our story because it was clear the fake news story was being read by many people who understandably thought it was real. Out goal was to ensure the fake news was identified as fake, and before publishing our piece we called both the AP and Cleveland.com but were unable to reach live people who could help. Second, once they were aware, the AP appears to have worked hard to fix what they could in this event, and were gracious and earnest about working with NCRM. I'd like to thank Lauren Easton at the AP for her partnership.
Lastly, about fake news sites. We've all been duped. Sadly, the law does not require (to the best of my knowledge) fake news sites to identify their "articles" as fake. Hopefully, that one day will change, given the amount of false information some news sites and blogs publish, which only serves make our national conversation even more fraught with anger and disaffection.
Image via Facebook