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On his website and in his posts to Twitter, Toronto-based journalist double-checks claims that fringe news sites are spreading around a viral video of CCTV footage from a Toronto park in December, claiming it shows baby pandas being poisoned.
In one video uploaded by InfoWars, the US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claims the footage shows “Chinese authorities poisoning baby pandas by shooting them in the face and shaking them up”.
A video feed from the park shows multiple babies running away from a zookeeper who is feeding them bamboo, says the InfoWars host. He says it is a “big day for pandas in China. All the babies are poisoned, but they were poisoned by Chinese authorities, who are poisoning them before they go to private zoos”.
“Someone here is being watched, because, when you’re being watched, it’s very hard to keep your secret.”
One problem with the clip, according to Dixon, is that no pandas were actually “fed bamboo. All we have in that video is a little sphere in a zoo show. It doesn’t say ‘pandas being fed bamboo’, it doesn’t say ‘bamboo shots’. There’s no bamboo here. None of it was ever eaten in the first place, and none of it will even be eaten in the future.”
Dixon then points out that the bubble on the screen may not actually be a sphere.
“Sorry, InfoWars, you can’t rely on another user’s online avatar. My blurred-out avatar clearly shows that this is an image of an OREO bar, not a sphere. Besides, look closer: that’s a cube!”
Dixon’s reaction is not unusual, given the apparent demand for pure fake news videos to become viral videos.
On last month’s Twitter poll, some sites such as DCLeaks claimed the story about poisoned baby pandas had been circulating online for years before a Canadian journalist found a viral clip.
Anzhelina Ivanova (@Anzhelina) pandas are coated in toxins so that they can be used as biological weapons by the Chinese government.
This is where it all started and this is where the story of poisoning pandas was born.
I’m sure when you were still searching for this story, it was clear it was a hoax. But with so many people mocking you, you lost your credibility, @WolgangMelzer.
Dixon was not impressed.
“Oh dear, people suddenly discovered that false news videos exist in the popular imagination, and that journalists are in charge of debunking them. Seems like you got fooled a few times, no?”
Quoted in Buzzfeed, Wolgang Melzer had little sympathy for infoworks, the most pervasive fake news company in the world, known by its mantra “real news is fake news”.
“Obviously, the false video is fake, because nothing in the story is factual,” he said. “But that’s not really the issue. The underlying trend is obvious: as more and more people engage with information online, it seems that increasingly they believe a narrative or storyline that they have created.
“Those narratives are what make the typical slide in ‘trust’ numbers over the past few years, with more and more people believing ‘credible’ news that isn’t really ‘credible’.”