After an attack at a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, the Daily Beast quickly reported the names of two suspects. However, the two men weren’t actually suspects — one of them lives in Hungary. The Daily Beast fell for a fake Twitter account purporting to be Reuters. And now, the two men say they are considering suing.
Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old student living in Quebec City, has been charged with the murder of six people in the attack on the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre. As iMediaEthics previously reported, Fox News deleted a tweet this week after reporting a Moroccan-born man was a suspect, when in fact he was a witness.
The fake Reuters account, @ReutersBrk, tweeted Jan. 29 at 10:40 p.m. “Authorities have identified the suspects in #Quebec City shooting as white supremacists David M.J. Aurine and Mathieu Fournier.” The tweet was accompanied by photos of the two. Conservative website The Daily Caller reported that “the two wrongly identified individuals are right-wing bloggers Davis M.J. Aurini and Matt Forney.”
In an e-mail, Aurini told iMediaEthics that the parody Twitter account itself wasn’t the main problem. Instead, it was a news outlet falling for the hoax without fact checking. He wrote in part:
“The Daily Beast was looking for the Great White Criminal, and so they jumped the gun. My name and face, as well as that of my colleague Matt Forney, were published without a moment’s research. Their ineptitude is risible, but it is also quite serious. My face is still appearing on Google searches of this tragedy, and their utter lack of journalistic ethics has put me at physical risk from the radical elements the media has drummed up.”
Forney told iMediaEthics that he found out about the false claim through friends after the fact, because of the time difference living in Hungary. He wrote in part:
“I had a good laugh about the story with my friends, but the fact that this even happened to begin with shows how little credibility the mainstream media has. A ten-second Google search would have debunked the account’s claims about me and my friend Davis Aurini. Not only did they get our names wrong, they aren’t aware of the fact that I’ve been living in Europe since the start of the year and haven’t visited Canada in nearly six years. The ‘white supremacist’ accusation was the cherry on top, and shows that they were looking to pin the crime on right-wingers and blame Donald Trump for it. If the MSM wonders why no one trusts them anymore, it’s because they propagate fake news stories like this.”
Neither Aurini nor Forney have heard from the Daily Beast, they told iMediaEthics. iMediaEthics has written to the Daily Beast for comment.
iMediaEthics notes that the @ReutersBrk account is suspended from Twitter Jan. 30. A Reuters spokesperson told iMediaEthics “The account was brought to our attention on Sunday evening and we acted immediately to have it removed.”
The Daily Beast has appended an editor’s note to its Jan. 29 article. It reads:
“Editor’s note: This piece originally stated that Reuters reported the names of the assailants. However, the information came from a Reuters parody social-media account. We regret the error and have deleted the information.”
The article links to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s article on the shooting, but a CBC spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail the error was the Daily Beast‘s and not CBC’s.
According to Mediaite, the fake Reuters account’s tweet tricked a lot of other tweeters but “the only outlet that reported on it was the Daily Beast.” Canada’s Global News reported that the fake Reuters Twitter account “identifies itself as a parody account in its profile.”
Aurini published a lengthy statement on his website noting that he hasn’t heard from the Daily Beast about the error. “They have not provided an apology for calling us White Supremacists, and exposing us and our families to danger,” Aurini wrote. “While he and I are used to these sorts of smears, it doesn’t change the fact that they are smears – and if it had been somebody else who’d been targeted they might have lost their jobs, or even worse.”
Aurini commented, “We have both stated that the Alt Right has become a beacon for idiots who don’t have any principles, and simply want to troll for trolling’s sake.”
On his website, Forney said he is considering suing and is concerned about possible retaliation because of the inaccurate reporting.