Movie giant 20th Century Fox has apologized for fabricating news sites that disseminated fake news in order to promote a film and admitted that its tactics were inappropriate.
A BuzzFeed News report on Feb. 13 revealed that the psychological thriller A Cure for Wellness is linked to a network of five fake news sites and a fake water brand that have spread made-up stories about topics ranging from Lady Gaga to President Trump and vaccinations.
The filmmakers did not respond to multiple requests for comment by BuzzFeed News and other outlets this week, but 20th Century Fox on Thursday sent a statement to the New York Times addressing the issue.
A spokesperson for the company said “the digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers.”
The spokesperson added that when 20th Century Fox generates interest for its films, “we do our best to push the boundaries of traditional marketing in order to creatively express our message to consumers."
“In this case, we got it wrong,” the spokesperson added.
Oftentimes, the ads posted on the fake news sites directed readers to A Cure for Wellness’s official website.
In some cases, the fake stories were picked up by legitimate news sites and received notable engagement on Facebook.
The manufactured sites bear names similar to legitimate publications, and in at least one case resulted in a barrage of angry phone calls and emails aimed at the real news outlet.
Prior to the apology, a spokesperson for Regency Companies, another one of the film’s producers, sent BuzzFeed News a statement attempting to justify its marketing ploy.
“A Cure for Wellness is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker,” it said. “As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site healthandwellness.co was created and we partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news.”