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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
A spokesperson for Fox Business Network declined to comment and pointed to Dobbs' Thursday morning tweet.
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.
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."
7. CNN reporter Brian Stelter was not posing with a pipe bomb in his apartment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11. Sayoc was a registered Republican.
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.
11. Fox News did not obscure the stickers on the bombing suspect's car.
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.
However, CNN and MSNBC used similar photos and footage to cover the arrest and seizure of the van.
"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.