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August 16, 2018
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Internet memes falsely allege celebration of terrorist attack in London

26.3.2017 13:38
This screenshot began spreading online after the 22 March 2017 terrorist attack in London, manipulatively alleging that the
This screenshot began spreading online after the 22 March 2017 terrorist attack in London, manipulatively alleging that the "Muslim world" is laughing at the attack.

A screenshot purported to be of a Facebook broadcast by the Arab television station Al-Jazeera is being shared through online social networks after Wednesday's terrorist attack in London, alleging that Muslim people have been celebrating it. "The Muslim world is laughing after the attack in London," reads the message that several online social network users are sharing, alleging that the screenshot is proof that Al-Jazeera watchers were glad about the attack and posting "likes" and emoticons featuring hearts and laughter during the broadcast.

Statistics compiled during the live Al-Jazeera broadcast, however, prove the opposite - the meme of this screenshot is just yet another in the series of online manipulations designed to spark hatred against all Muslims. During any live Facebook broadcast, people watching can use emoticons to express their feelings about the content.

Some are interpreting the fact that a few viewers used "smiley face" emoticons during the broadcast to mean that not just those viewers, but the entire "Muslim world", were laughing at the attacks during which four people, including the assailant, died. "It's difficult to know whether the screenshot is real, but it is possible to see all the reactions a video got on Facebook. Al Jazeera's video shows a very small minority of viewers 'laughed' at the video," reported BuzzFeedNews in an article about the disinformation that appeared online just after the London attack.

According to Al-Jazeera, the interpretation that "Muslims" are glad about the attack is false - and that can be proven by the number of individual reactions to the live broadcast. There were around 5 200 such reactions as the broadcast unfolded - the top line in the screenshots below show the total number of reactions and how many times each kind of emoticon appeared:

The emoticons of the heart or the "smiley face" were used just 280 times out of those 5 200 reactions during the Al-Jazeera Facebook broadcast. "A similar proportion of such emoticons appeared on the Wednesday Facebook broadcasts from Westminster by the BBC, CNN and Sky News. The average proportion of such reactions is around 5 %. Also, a single person can flood a live broadcast with more than one emoticon, and that can make it seem as if a big number of people are reacting to what is being broadcast at the time," Al-Jazeera has commented.

There is no way to verify what a Facebook user means when he or she uses an emoticon. The "like" emoticon (the "thumb's up") alone can mean many different things.

What's more, it is even more unlikely that one can guess the religion of those watching a Facebook broadcast. Such data is not publicly available.

"The producers of fake news jump at any opportunity to disseminate distorted news reports - whether for commercial reasons or ideological ones - especially at times when emotions are tense," commented Al-Jazeera. "In this case they have attempted to disseminate a report worldwide that 'the Muslim world is laughing at the victims'. The facts, of course, tell us the opposite is true."

 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Hoax, Islamophobia, manipulation, Hate



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