Three Russian news outlets and one Italian newspaper’s website were hoaxed by a satire story that said the “World’s Strongest Man” had “inadvertently broken up a gay rights rally in Ukraine.”
The UaReview article, published on Nov. 8, was titled “Basil Virastuk broke up a rally in support of sexual minorities,” according to a Google Translate.
It reported that protestors fled when they saw Virastuk heading their way. (iMediaEthics has seen at least four different spellings for the name of the strongman: Vasyl Virastiuk, Vasyl Viryastuk, Basil Virastuk, and Basil Virastyuk.)
The Ua Review website notes that it publishes “satirical ‘fake’ news.” There is also a disclaimer on the website that reads: “All these online events and characters are fictional. Any coincidence with real people and events are random.” UA Review‘s Facebook page also identifies it as “satirical news.”
The outlets that were tricked by the story are: Russian state-owned news agency Ria Novosti, Russian TV news Russia Today, Russian citizen journalism news site Ridus.ru, and Italian weekly newspaper Il Mondo.
UaReview editor Roman Golubovsky told iMediaEthics by e-mail more about the site. “Our ‘news’ is often satirical response to specific political or social issues in Ukraine and abroad,” he wrote.
Golubovsky commented: “We emphasize that all these online events and personalities are fictitious, and any convergence with real people and events is coincidental. And despite this, in th pursuit of sensation and not always checking the facts, Ukrainian and foreign media sometimes publish our humorous work under the guise of real news.” He added that other recent UaReview stories that got attention online included that Ukraine has “banned the missionary position in sex,” and that a dining room employee of the “Supreme Council of Ukraine is fired because she spit in the soup.”
Here’s the round-up:
- Ria Novosti has added an editor’s note to its Nov. 11 story based on Ridus.ru’s story. The note says: “Editor’s notice: Dear readers, the following story is false as it was based on an unchecked report by a Ukrainian website. Please disregard.” iMediaEthics has reached out to Ria Novosti asking how it learned it was hoaxed. We’ll update with any response.
- Ridus.ru also reported on the story as if it were real, BuzzFeed reported. A link to Ridus.ru’s story now goes to an error page.
- Russia Today was also hoaxed into reporting on the story and later unpublished it, according to Lenta.ru. iMediaEthics searched Russia Today‘s website and didn’t find any article on the strongman claim.
- Italy’s Il Mondo reported on the satire story, iMediaEthics discovered via a Google search. Its Nov. 11 article, is titled: “Ukraine, the strongest man in the world terrifies gay activists: They feared that the strongman was an agent intervened to evict them.”
More on Russia Today
According to Russian news site Lenta.ru, the Russia Today article was titled “World’s Strongest Man accidentally broke up a rally of gays in Lviv” (or Самый сильный человек планеты случайно разогнал митинг геев во Львове).
iMediaEthics seached Google for that headline and the first result was a link to a story on Russia Today‘s website. The article link (and its Google Cache) now direct visitors to a Nov 11 story titled, “UK check for freedom of the press” about a panel on freedom of speech, suggesting that Russia Today replaced its own story on the strongman gay rights rally hoax with a new report on something completely different. (A Google Translate of the Lenta.ru report suggests it found similar results, but the translation wasn’t clear.)
iMediaEthics’ Google search of the original Russia Today headline also produced a blogpost on Russia Today’s Live Journal. That Live Journal post appears to contain the original Russia Today story re-published on the blog. It shows that Russia Today did report on the Ua Review story without disclosing it was fake.