The media was once again fooled into breaking a fake news story. This one followed the tragedy in the Florida Mass Shooting. Multiple news organization reported that the shooter was a member of a White Nationalist group but ultimately had to issue corrections once it was discover to be fake news.
Politico reported: Following misrepresentations by a white nationalist leader and coordinated efforts by internet trolls, numerous researchers and media outlets spread a seemingly false claim that the man charged with killing more than a dozen people at a Florida high school belonged to an extremist group.
Law enforcement agencies say they have no evidence so far to support this claim, and the rumor appears to have been perpetrated by white nationalist trolls themselves.
On Thursday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League reported that a white supremacist group claimed ties with Nikolas Cruz, who confessed to the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, including many high-school students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“A spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) told the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, February 15, that Nikolas Cruz [....] was associated with his group,” the ADL reported. The ADL quoted a man named Jordan Jereb, who runs the small group, which is based in Tallahassee.
“Jereb added that ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting,” the ADL wrote in a blog post that was quickly picked up by ABC News and The Associated Press, and later percolated through dozens of other media outlets. Even The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, picked up the claim.
Some outlets reported they had their own conversations with Jereb or classmates of Cruz who allegedly corroborated the association of Cruz with ROF.
But a few hours later, after law enforcement agencies said they had no evidence linking Cruz to ROF, Jereb said his identification of Cruz was a “misunderstanding” and that he, too, had been the subject of a “prank.” On online forums and Twitter, trolls and white nationalists gloated at the disinformation they had sowed.
“All of our evidence seems to point to the ADL getting this wrong,” said Joan Donovan, a researcher who tracks online misinformation campaigns for Data & Society, a think tank in New York City.
The ADL subsequently revised its report, as did many news outlets.
"ADL shared information from our experts on extremism and claims from white supremacist that we believed could be helpful to both law enforcement and the public due to the fluid and evolving nature of the events," an ADL spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. "Confirmation of whether Cruz was part of ROF is now in the hands of law enforcement, and that’s what the Broward sheriff’s team is looking into."
At a news conference on Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that such a connection was “not confirmed at this time,” but that law enforcement was continuing to investigate. The sheriff's office in Leon County, which contains Tallahassee, later told the Tallahassee Democrat that it had found "no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter.”
Donovan called this an instance of “source hacking,” a tactic by which fringe groups coordinate to feed false information to authoritative sources such as ADL researchers. These experts, in turn, disseminate the information to reporters, and it reaches thousands of readers before it can be debunked.
“It’s a very effective way of getting duped,” Donovan said.
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Local law enforcement has stated that they have not found any ties between a paramilitary group alleged to be affiliated with the Florida shooter.
Local law enforcement sources have not found a connection between accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz and a Tallahassee-based paramilitary group.
Leon County law enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they could not find information linking Cruz, 19, to the Republic of Florida Militia, as claimed by the group’s self-proclaimed leader Jordan Jereb.
His comments to the Anti-Defamation League and The Associated Press set off a media firestorm Thursday at about midday that Cruz was connected to the alt-right, white nationalist group.
Hours after news outlets around the nation reported Cruz's alleged ties, Leon County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Grady Jordan told the Tallahassee Democrat investigative work did not yield any connections.
“We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” Jordan said.
Read more: (Link: www.tallahassee.com)
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