Non factual, false news reporting has political consequences. This especially when it is picked up by partisan propagandists to push their agenda. It is often not easy to forensically follow the trail of fake news but here is a recent example "caught in the wild".
The Associated Press is a nonprofit and political neutral news agency financed by U.S. newspapers and other media outlets of various political stripes. Its wide range of customers (mostly) prevents it from partisan domestic reporting. It takes on international issues are different. The selection of the news items it reports on is driven by customer interests and thereby slanted in its selection. But the factual reporting on news items is generally straight forward - or supposed to be such. Political decisions are sometimes based on its reports. It is therefore causing concern when it spreads obviously fake news.
Yesterday the AP pushed out this item:
The Associated Press Verified account @AP
Russia claims it has killed IS leader al-Baghdadi. https://apnews.com/...
7:51 AM - 16 Jun 2017
Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of IS leaders just outside the group's de facto capital in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.
The AP item seemed wrong to me. Russia is usually very cautious with such claims and tends not to make such absolute statements. ( The U.S. military though ...)
I checked with the official Russian agency TASS and it indeed reported something different: IS top leader may have been killed by Russian airstrike in Syria
MOSCOW, June 16. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has said it is verifying reports that the Islamic State terrorist group’s leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed by a Russian airstrike on the southern suburb of Syria’s Raqqa in late May.
Other Russian news-sources reported likewise. The Russian Defense Ministry never claimed that its forces killed Baghdadi. It only said that it is looking into such claims. The NY Times, with its own reporter in Moscow, also reported more carefully: Russian Military Says It Might Have Killed ISIS Leader
MOSCOW — Russia’s military said on Friday that it was looking into whether one of its airstrikes in the Syrian desert had killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph of the Islamic State.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said that the Russian Air Force struck a meeting of Islamic State leaders on May 28 outside Raqqa, Syria, the group’s de facto capital, possibly killing Mr. Baghdadi.
Obviously the Associated Press report, distributed widely, was factually wrong. I was concerned that this false reporting would have consequences:
Moon of Alabama @MoonofA
Moon of Alabama Retweeted The Associated Press
Tass says Russia only investigating such a claim. @AP exaggerating here? Blame Russia when claim turns out false?
8:43 AM - 16 Jun 2017
My concern for a "blame Russia" slant turned out to be justified when hacks started to use the false AP report to push their political agenda.
Paul Cruickshank is a:
Editor-in-Chief CTC Sentinel ○ CNN Terrorism Analyst ○ Co-author international bestseller Agent Storm ~ Guardian's Top Ten Spy Books of all time
Cruickshank immediately followed up on the false AP story without having checked its veracity:
Paul Cruickshank Verified account @CruickshankPaul
Five reasons why we should be deeply sceptical of the Russian Baghdadi claim.
9:47 AM - 16 Jun 2017
Russia never made the claim Cruickshank thought it had made but he uses the false AP item to push his own false narrative:
Paul Cruickshank Verified account @CruickshankPaul
5. It's coming from the Russians who have every interest in being seen as taking fight to ISIS (when most of focus elsewhere)
9:54 AM - 16 Jun 2017
For the record: Russia (and Syria and its other allies) have fought ISIS whenever and wherever they possibly could. It was the U.S. that did not fight ISIS but used and uses it for its own purpose. Obama and Kerry publicly admitted such (scroll down for their quotes). Only after Russia pointed out that thousands of tanker trucks moved oil from ISIS areas to Turkey without U.S. interference did the U.S. join in to destroy them. Cruickshank is using the fake news from AP to spread his own false claim that Russia and Syria did not and do not fight ISIS.
Another such hack is the Gulf paid promoter of Takfiri "rebels" in Syria, Charles Lister: Russia's Baghdadi Claim Needs Verification
By Charles Lister
Russia’s claim to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike in Raqqa on May 28 should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.
Russia has a long track record of issuing fake claims and deliberate misinformation during its campaign in Syria.
Beyond Russia's likely bogus claim, ...
Cruickshank and Lister both spread factless propaganda sold as conclusion of the news content of an AP report. But the AP report was fake news.
If there was a need to take the report "with a heavy grain of salt" why not go back and check the original reporting in the first place? Lister and Cruickshank obviously did not do that.
The Associated Press has meanwhile corrected its false original reporting. It now headlines under the same link: Uncertainty over Islamic State leader’s fate after airstrike. (The link to the piece still says "Russia-claims-it-has-killed ..".)
BEIRUT (AP) — Uncertainty and confusion surrounded the fate of the head of the Islamic State group Friday as Russia announced it may have killed him ...
Apart from Moscow’s claim that he may have been killed in the May 28 airstrike along with more than 300 militants, there was not much else to back it up. The Russian Defense Ministry said the information about his death was still “being verified through various channels.”
While AP corrected its report neither its original tweet nor other media reports derived from the original AP one received any correction. The hacks that made their false political points based on the fake news will certainly not update and correct their claims.
Fake news can be dangerous. But it is not the fake news from some blog or little read partisan outlet that is a danger to the public. It is fake news spread by mainstream media and big news agencies that is of real concern.
Note that the original AP report, seen in the AP screenshot above, has "Moscow" as the dateline. The corrected one is datelined from "Beirut". The original author of the AP fake news was its Moscow correspondent Vladimir Isachenkov. It is certainly fair to say that Isachenkov's other reporting from Moscow is rarely sympathetic to the Russian viewpoint on the issues in question. His reporting is always a reflection the unquestioned predominant U.S. view - be that right or wrong. The Russian standpoint is never analyzed for its own value but always in relation to the U.S. position which is a-priori taken as the ultimate truth.
One wonders how it is serving the knowledge and judgement of the U.S. public and its policy makers to have its premier news agency deliver such slanted, if not fake, news reporting from Moscow.
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