Porn on CNN? How to Construct a Viral (Fake) News Story

fake-news
Courtesy of Pixabay

By William Cawley (@DigiTrey)


It is said that the best lies are constructed from truth.

Fantastic lies express a sentiment with which many people can identify. The perfect fake-news stories are those that take advantage of these ideas.

One recent example of this phenomena came out over Thanksgiving weekend. A woman in Boston tweeted about an issue she was having while watching CNN. A marathon of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown was interrupted by 30 minutes of X-rated content, she reported. The Twitter user even included a screen shot of her television that was blurred out.

And yes, there were a lot of jokes about how fitting was the title of the show.

It did not take long for media outlets to pick the story up. Places such as the Independent, the Daily Mail, The New York Post, Esquire, and Variety all wrote about the incident. Looking to do damage control, CNN notified the public that they were making inquires. RCN, the cable operator in Boston responsible for broadcasting CNN in that area, reached out to the woman over Twitter to clarify the issue.

However, now it looks like the incident was either an elaborate joke or extremely localized to only one user. No one else in the area reported the issue, leading to CNN to declare “… there was no interruption of CNN’s programming in the Boston area…” during the time of the incident.

Now that this issue appears to be settled, it is time for a post-mortem on what transpired.

This is a time that media outlets and social media are criticized for fake news. It may be the shaken trust in news sources that fueled this particular rumor. After all, if you believe that news networks like CNN are only a step above smut, then showing pornography on-air is only a small reach.

Actual problems with inappropriate content appearing in unexpected places have occurred before. In 2007, a Comcast distributor in New Jersey had an interruption of the children’s show Handy Mandy with six  minutes of hardcore pornography. In 2009, a similar incident happened during the Super Bowl. The reality is that these types of incidents do occur.

However, it was a failure by these media outlets to check and see if the CNN incident was real before writing about it.  A game of “follow the leader” occurred as they all wanted to report on the matter before it was no longer a story.

A bit of truth, a dash of sentiment, and a lack of fact-checking are all that it takes to spread a fake news story.

 


References

Durkin, J. (2016). Did the Media Fall For a Fake Story About CNN Airing 30 Minutes of Hardcore Porn Last Night? Mediaite. Retrieved from http://www.mediaite.com/online/did-the-media-fall-for-a-fake-story-about-cnn-airing-30-minutes-of-hardcore-porn-last-night/

Mandell, N. (2011). FBI Busts Ex-cable Company Employee for Hacking into 2009 Super Bowl Broadcast with Porn Clip. NYDailyNews. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/fbi-busts-ex-cable-company-employee-hacking-2009-super-bowl-broadcast-porn-clip-article-1.136178

Marco, M. (2007). New Jersey Comcast Shows Porn Instead of Disney Channel. Consumerist. Retrieved from https://consumerist.com/2007/05/07/new-jersey-comcast-shows-porn-instead-of-disney-channel/

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism