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Fake news, BBC |  This BBC report is not what it claims

Fake news, BBC | This BBC report is not what it claims

We're about a month into 2024, and some of the things that are influencing – and will likely continue to influence the news picture throughout the year – are the presidential election in the USA and the war in Ukraine.

In connection with the war in Ukraine and the presidential election campaign in the United States, the dangers of fake news are frequently discussed.

A video report surfaced earlier this year and was shared on social media. The report addresses a number of specific allegations regarding US President Hunter Biden's son. The sender appears to be the British National Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), one of the most well-known and well-known media organizations in the world.

In the video, the BBC claims that Joe Biden's son has strong ties to a company that “monopolizes the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”

The alleged candle monopoly

Furthermore, Bellingcat's award-winning journalism group has been drawn to video investigations. The documents they have should show that Hunter Biden has connections with this wholesaler who has the exclusive right to supply the Orthodox Church of Ukraine with various equipment, says the text label that is displayed on the screen.

Since 2020, they are alone in selling candlesticks and other items that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine may need. They gained this advantage by purchasing 12 competing suppliers, the report tells us.

Then images of American Pastor Thomas Weandy appear. He uses the phrase “the devil's paradox” in relation to the alleged monopolistic presence of a church equipment company in Ukraine.

Hunter Biden is the real embodiment of Satan on Earth, which appears to be linked to the production of candles for churches. I can find no clearer sign that the end is near, as the priest was quoted as saying.

Economists then allegedly estimate that the market for providing services and products to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine will exceed NOK 3.6 billion in 2022.

If we are to take the content of the report seriously, the former aide to Hunter Biden is the majority owner of a company that has a monopoly on supplying the Orthodox Church in Ukraine with candelabra and candles. But maybe you shouldn't do that.

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Because the BBC did this? Did Bellingcat issue such a report as referred to in this case?

The answer is a resounding no to both questions.

He was exposed to the campaign

Bellingcat Journalists Network director Elliot Higgins tells Nettavisen that this is not the first time their name has been misused in an attempt to spread misinformation.

The video appears to be part of a social media campaign aimed at producing fake videos for the BBC and the Bellingcat website. This is the fourth video in a row, Higgins tells Nettavisen.

A BBC News spokesperson also denied the fact-checking site Check your factsThat report is real. Therefore he is a liar.

Nettavisen contacted BBC News for comment, but they did not respond to our enquiry.

This is true, says Higgins. Three times before that, posts spread, mostly in Russian forums on Telegram, where Bellingcat was mentioned as a source and the BBC as a news provider. The only problem is that none of them contributed to the reports.

Fortunately, it is very easy to debunk these videos by saying we did not produce this report, and the BBC has done the same for its part.

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– It confuses me

Bellingcat's manager struggles to see what they are trying to achieve with these reports.

– Aside from creating huge engagement in pro-Russian Telegram channels, I don't see these videos having much impact on anyone. It also baffles me that they keep making these videos when we expose it every time. Maybe the people making the videos are just doing what they're paid to do, but the videos don't seem to have much of an impact on anything, Higgins adds.

Instead, he chose to look favorably on the fact that their name and good reputation were being misused here.

– I think, on the other hand, that it puts us in a good light, that they are pairing us with a reputable news broadcaster like the BBC – to use our shared reputation to overcome their disinformation, even if they fail, Bellingcat-director concludes by saying.

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Experts advise caution

Bente Kalsnes is a professor in the Department of Communication at Christiania University College. She specializes in fake news, disinformation and the political use of social media. In the field mentioned first, she also wrote the book “Falske nyheter”. Lies, Disinformation and Propaganda in the Digital Public” about.

She saw the fake BBC report, but did not want to comment on the specific example in detail. Kalsnis reminds us that there is a significant amount of research suggesting that more mentions of fake news helps determine the size of the audience you will get.

She points to study Which refers to research findings that most people hear about fake news stories from mainstream media, not from fake news outlets.

“You have to be careful how you talk about these news stories so they don't repeat themselves and reinforce misinformation,” Kalsnis says.

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– “Metaphor” of credibility

The expert says that the tools and means used to produce fake news have become more complex. The latest development is the use of artificial intelligence.

We have seen many examples of editorial abuse in fake news. An editorial is often taken and the content modified. This is done in order to “borrow” the credibility of the media. Then, it looks like a quality-assured editorial product, which is used to try to deceive viewers, Kalsnis says.

The professor exemplifies fake content through the now-famous fake “news articles” that are sometimes shared as ads on Facebook, as discussed in this EKTE Nettavisen article.

– What may seem like a news article about a celebrity is actually a Facebook ad urging people to buy something or other. The visual appearance is then used so that the reader thinks it is an editorial article, but it is actually spam.

What's more, Kalsnis says, it would have been possible to detect such ads on Facebook, due to simple errors like logos or typos. But there are examples of more sophisticated variants.

But you've seen examples of online newspaper clones, identical copies of online newspapers created to deceive people, she says.

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– It can be abused

During 2024, there are a huge number of elections scheduled to take place. There are elections in the European Parliament, India, Pakistan and the United States. Russia is also due to see elections, although there are few tensions over whether Putin will continue in office for another six years, after nearly two decades as president – ​​including only two terms as prime minister.

What is exciting is how artificial intelligence is being used in all the election campaigns taking place around the world this year. The technology has been around for a long time, but open AI and other similar tools have emerged, making the technology more accessible. So we can expect this to be used to produce audio, images and automatic messages, Bente Kalsnes tells Netafsen.

Kalsnis says it is already known that artificial intelligence is being used to advertise candidates in the US election campaign.

– but one can also imagine that it could be abused to create inauthentic content and manipulate existing video content. This will likely make the candidates appear in a different light, Kalsnis says, and adds that it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

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Clear advice for readers

– What can the reader do to verify the accuracy of the news?

-You should be more careful if you are not sure of the sender's identity. Is the content as it claims? What sources are used? Is the content too provocative? Stop and think before you share. Check if others are writing about the same issue.

-There are different things you can search for. In general, when you come across news on social media, you should pay more attention. In addition, it is important not to pass on information whose source you do not know.