Banksy didn't do Charlie Hebdo Pencil Cartoon, News Outlets Duped

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This image was posted on a "banksy" Instagram account yesterday, but isn't by Banksy.

A cartoon attributed to the elusive graffiti artist Banksy responding to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday went viral last night, but it wasn’t Banksy’s.

The cartoon showed three pencils – one unbroken pencil labeled yesterday, one broken pencil labeled today, and two sharpened pencils labeled today.

It was posted on an Instagram account seemingly representing the artist Banksy, originally without attribution.

But the picture was by Lucille_Clerc, Mashable reported. See below her image posted on her Instagram with the caption, “break one, thousand will rise.”

Break one, thousand will rise #CharlieHebdo #JeSuisCharlie #raiseyourpencil

A photo posted by Lucille Clerc (@lucille_clerc) on


Business Insider busted the image as phony last night, pointing out that the “banksy” Instagram account doesn’t belong to Banksy.  Further, Banksy’s spokesperson confirmed to the UK Independent last night, saying the image wasn’t Banksy’s.

Buiness Insider added that one tipoff that the image wasn’t Banksy’s work came in the file size.

“The image uploaded to the fake Banksy social media posts is pixelated and low-resolution,” Business Insider pointed out. “Banksy is an artist who makes a living from exhibiting his work, he wouldn’t want his work to be displayed in a way that makes it look bad.”

Mashable noted that the image posted on the fake Banksy account had an Instagram filter on it, which “made it undetectbale to reverse-image software like Tineye which treated it as an original image,” if anyone tried to check.

Mashable, which reported on the image as an original piece by Banksy, posted this correction: 

“CORRECTION, Jan. 8, 8:51 a.m. ET: We now know that the illustration below wasn’t by Banksy and was not an original piece of art. It was illustrated by Lucille Clerc, a London-based graphic designer and printmaker, who shared it on social media on Wednesday night.

“It’s also not clear that the @Banksy Instagram account, which has 1 million followers, is actually operated by the artist. Since the account lifted someone else’s work without attribution, we now assume it is fake.”

Mashable’s Brian Ries, who originally reported on the image as if it were from Banksy, told iMediaEthics he checked the image through a Tineye reverse image search and thought that the @banksy Instagram was real. “I remembered a slew of stories that said Banksy’s Twitter & Facebook were fake but his Instagram real back during his New York run, but I mistakenly assumed the one million account was real (it isn’t),” he wrote to iMediaEthics.

Ries said Mashable began correcting its post shortly after publication asi t learned more about the photo. “We learned it wasn’t real Banksy not long after we posted and quickly added a note questioning the authenticity of that account,” he wrote. “Hours later, we decided that wasn’t enough and issued a full-blown correction just to make sure none of our readers thought it was authentic.”

Ultimately, “I got duped,” Ries commented.

He added that he corresponded with Lucille Clerc about the image who said “the more [her image] spreads the better it is.”



Huffington Post was also duped by the phony image, reporting last night: “‘Banksy’ Instagram Account Shares Simple But Beautiful Tribute To Charlie Hebdo Cartoonists.”

The Huffignton Post posted an update atop its original article to reflect the image was Clerc’s. Clerc told the Huffington Post “Yes, I can confirm the drawing is mine. Whoever [reposted] this just took my image and added a filter. I didn’t answer as I don’t want it to turn into a polemic, and distract people from the real issues.”

Mediaite likewise fell for the Instagram post and updated its article to inform readers it was not Banksy’s work.

BuzzFeed published a correction and a follow-up post after mistakenly including the Clerc pencil image as a Banksy work in its collection of “23 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding to the Charlie Hebdo Shooting.”

The BuzzFeed correction reads: “Number 22 was originally created by graphic designer Lucille Clerc. An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed this image to “Banksy”. Jan. 8, 2015, at 3:37 a.m.”

BuzzFeed also corrected attribution for another cartoon in its listicle. That correction reads: “Number 16 was originally created by visual artist Rafael Mantesso. An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed this cartoon. Jan. 7, 2015, at 11:55 a.m.”

iMediaEthics has written to Clerc for comment.

See all of iMediaEthics’ stories on Charlie Hebdo.

UPDATE: 1/8/2015 4:31 PM EST Added comments from Mashable’s Ries

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Banksy didn’t do Charlie Hebdo Pencil Cartoon, News Outlets Duped

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