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We're Tracking Misinformation About The Pipe Bombs Sent To Prominent Liberals

Almost as soon as the news broke, hoaxes and misleading information started spreading on social media.

Last updated on October 26, 2018, at 5:32 p.m. ET

Posted on October 25, 2018, at 12:27 p.m. ET

A series of homemade explosive devices were sent to key political figures around the US. Almost as soon as the news broke, hoaxes and misleading information started spreading on social media. BuzzFeed News is tracking the falsehoods spreading online. For the latest information on the situation, see the live post here.

1. This claim published by a blog called "End of the Age Headlines" is made up. The FBI has not announced any details about the person(s) responsible for the bombs.

Screenshot

The post has over 200,000 engagements on Facebook and over 3,000 engagements on Twitter according to social media tracking app BuzzSumo. It has been shared to several Facebook groups dedicated to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory and was shared by a former Republican Senate candidate.

2. A meme that aims to sow doubt about the bomb sent to CNN is spreading on Facebook. According to CNN's own reporting, the package was received via courier, which would not affect the stamps.

Screenshot

3. A writer for conspiracy websites said he overheard Democrats saying the packages were "an inside job," but he has a history of "overhearing" highly dubious things in coffee shops that no one else can corroborate.

Twitter

Again, the FBI has not announced any findings about the motivation behind the pipe bombs.

4. A misleading headline from Yahoo reinforces conspiracy theories about the packages. James Woods has spread hoaxes in the past and has no firsthand knowledge of the incidents.

Yahoo

5. Fox Business Network Host Lou Dobbs tweeted Wednesday that the bombs were fake. He offered no proof to his 1.85 million followers. Authorities have said the bombs were functional despite their amateurish construction. Dobbs later deleted the tweet.

Fox Business primetime host Lou Dobbs deleted a tweet claiming the pipe bombs mailed yesterday were fake. https://t.co/DzorcGilh5 https://t.co/IbjoWSkftS

Dobbs has shared baseless conspiracy theories about Democrats in the past. He's an ardent supporter of President Trump.

On his show that night, one of his guests pointed out that "we have no idea who did this," which is true, "yet media is putting out grotesquely irresponsible statements."

#FakeNews – @dbongino: We have no idea what the motives are behind today’s suspicious packages yet media is already putting out grotesquely irresponsible statements. The news coverage has been abhorrent. #MAGA #TrumpTrain #Dobbs https://t.co/AC0hzM8ziS

The next day, Dobbs doubled down on the idea that the bombs were an electioneering plot, contradicting what he aired on his show without evidence.

On Lou Dobbs Tonight I'll take up why FBI and ATF hasn't informed the public about contents of "suspicious packages": whether hoax or bombs, they were clearly designed to influence election. Why? #Dobbs

A spokesperson for Fox Business Network declined to comment and pointed to Dobbs' Thursday morning tweet.

6. There is no factual basis for the claim that the pipe bombs were a diversion intended to distract from news about the migrant caravan in Central America.

AUDIO: Rush Limbaugh suggests bombs mailed to Democrats are a false flag: "Republicans just don't do this kind of thing" https://t.co/VlvkWhoZ3P https://t.co/rPuQdoViv6

There is no evidence to support the claim that the mailed bombs are related to the group of thousands traveling through Central America to seek asylum in the US, which has been the victim of its own misinformation campaign.

Multiple outlets repeated claims made by Rush Limbaugh, Candace Owens, Milo Yiannopoulos and other prominent conservative commentators that the bombs sent to prominent critics of the president were a hoax meant to shift attention away from the migrants.

@blakersdozen Conservative voices, including those w access to mainstream outlets, have been insinuating the hoax storyline. Gina Loudon, for example is a regular at Fox News, and while she’s not claiming it a hoax, she certainly seems to be playing with the idea #caution #thinkmotives https://t.co/2shQwSscso

The Daily Wire, a conservative blog started by Ben Shapiro, published both the conspiracy theory and an article decrying it on the same day: "Limbaugh: Were Bomb Threats A 'False Flag' Operation?" and "Bomber Sends Explosives To Hillary, Obama, Soros, Holder. Leftists Blame Trump. Right-Wingers Claim False Flag. Everything Is Terrible." The former makes no attempts to debunk the conspiracy theory.

The baseless conspiracy theory traveled much farther on social media than its counterpart. According to BuzzSumo, the article promoting it received 156,600 engagements on Facebook and 1,200 on Twitter, whereas the post denouncing it racked up 37,200 engagements on Facebook and less than a thousand on Twitter.

Donald Trump Jr liked several tweets promoting the idea of a diversion, including one that read, "FAKE BOMBS MADE TO SCARE AND PICK UP BLUE SYMPATHY VOTE."

Twitter/Blake Montgomery


7. CNN reporter Brian Stelter was not posing with a pipe bomb in his apartment.

James Murray / 6sqft via AP

An image circulating on social media appeared to show CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter and his wife, Jamie, posing in their living room with a package similar to the ones sent to critics of the president and CNN. The image had been photoshopped to include the explosive package, according to the Associated Press. The original photo came from an article on the website 6sqft about the Stelters' home.

"This is despicable," Stelter told the AP. "It was photoshopped."

8. The logo on the side of the bombs themselves is not an ISIS flag. It's a parody.

6. The flag on one of the bombs is NOT an ISIS flag. It's an obscure imitation meme. Here's @oneunderscore__ on that: https://t.co/InRzoO61xo https://t.co/sJdmgf3Dul

A sticker on the side of the pipe bomb sent to CNN shows three women in high heels, letters meant to resemble Arabic, and the phrase "Get 'er done," often attributed to the comedian Larry the Cable guy, according to NBC.

9. The bombs could have exploded, despite how they looked.

Gateway Pundit

None of the mailed bombs exploded, and no one was harmed, leading some websites to declare the attack a hoax.

The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing outlet known for publishing unverified information and conspiracy theories, posted a headline, "IT WAS A TOTAL HOAX! Clocks Taped to ‘Pipe Bombs’ Do Not Have Alarm Function! Were Just for Show!"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the devices were working explosives, despite how they may appear.

"They are bombs capable of detonation," he told CNN. "That has been established."

Investigators were, at one point, looking into the possibility that the bombs had been a hoax, but determined that they were not.

Officials in New York said they were treating the packages and their contents as "live devices."

10. Beware of recently created social media accounts purporting to be the suspected bomber. It's very likely that they're fake.

Twitter

Social media companies often shutter the accounts of high-profile suspects, and people peddling hoaxes will sometimes fill the void by posing as the alleged criminals.

One Twitter account posing as Cesar Altieri Sayoc and created around the time he was arrested tweeted, "Well, looks like they got me!!" It's unlikely that authorities would allow him access to the internet to tweet about his arrest.

Real-time fake profile creating happening right now on Facebook - variants of #FloridaMan Sayoc Cesar Jr.


11. Sayoc was a registered Republican.

The media is reporting that #CesarSayoc is a Registered Republican. Documentation actually shows he is a registered DEMOCRAT! More lies from the media. https://t.co/nssqEhuwAX

Sayoc registered as a member of the Republican Party before the 2016 election, according to Miami-Dade County voting records. Laura Loomer, a right-wing internet personality, has a history of spreading conspiracy theories, as does right-wing commentator Bill Mitchell.

@mitchellvii Funny how he went from a registered Democratic to a Republican today

11. Fox News did not obscure the stickers on the bombing suspect's car.

Twitter

When Sayoc was arrested, police confiscated his van, which was covered pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, including ones with targets over some Democrats' faces.

Viral tweets on Friday morning alleged that Fox News intentionally blurred images of the stickers during its coverage of the arrest in what the posters implied was an act of bias.

Twitter

However, CNN and MSNBC used similar photos and footage to cover the arrest and seizure of the van.

MSNBC

"We’ve repeatedly run aerial, stills and affiliate footage of the van throughout the day, all of which was shown without any editing. This is in fact a hoax," a Fox News spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

CNN



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