Journalists at CNN have been warning about the dangers of fake news online for the past several weeks, but the network was the victim of fake news on Friday. A Twitter user, @solikearose, said that CNN aired thirty minutes of porn Thanksgiving night instead of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Initial articles about the event said that viewers in Boston who subscribe to RCN, a cable provider, saw thirty minutes of hardcore porn. The Independent gave the story prominence before it was tweeted out by the Drudge Report and articles were written for Mashable, Variety, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, and Esquire. Many of the headlines also left out the critical context that it was limited to the Boston area.
However, even the Boston area now seems to be a generous estimation of the affected area. Jeff Carlson, the general manager of RCN Boston, said in a statement, “We are in the process of researching this incident but see no evidence our CNN network feed was compromised last evening in Boston.”
CNN’s initial comment was seen as confirmation that an incident did take place though, “The RCN cable operator in Boston aired inappropriate content for 30 minutes on CNN last night. CNN has asked for an explanation.”
CNN then updated its comment, saying, “Despite media reports to the contrary, RCN assures us that there was no interruption of CNN’s programming in the Boston area last night.”
Carlson also later provided further information, “Regarding the reported incident involving CNN in Boston, RCN has no evidence this occurrence took place on the CNN feed. We have not had any other reports of this incident other than this single customer’s tweet. Our review of network operations and our call center phone logs during the last evening show no indications that this event occurred on the CNN feed. Only a technical review of the individual’s equipment involved could possibly ascertain how this might have occurred. We’ve confirmed that this one customer’s account is in proper working order.”
@solikearose for her part has switched her account to private after receiving “hate mail and d**k pics in the wake of #bourdainporn” and has also changed her name from Rose to “Pizza.”
Based off BuzzFeed News reporting, it seems the problem was contained only to Rose’s house, despite what the news reports originally ran with. Rose also maintains that she did indeed see porn on CNN and sent BuzzFeed additional photos in an effort to prove her story. Rose also said that the CNN channel resumed working after she reset her box.
While Rose’s story may be true, her dilemma exploded online and led to numerous, now known to be false, articles about CNN airing porn. Those have now been revealed to be false and some, like Variety, have updated the stories and issued corrections. The American news media has been struggling with the issue of fake news. Most of those articles come from online outlets that are designed to spread fake news in order to make money. The trouble comes when legitimate news sources publish incorrect information, misinforming the public while also hurting the reputation and trustworthiness of the “mainstream media.” Rose’s story also shows how quickly a story can spread online. She was the only person to tweet about this, but it was retweeted and then picked up by one news organization after another.