The fake news phenomenon has turned up with a story about mass murder on the beaches of Cancún.
“More than 50 lifeless bodies of children and adults found on the coast of Cancún,” screamed the headline of a story published last week on a Spanish language website called Más Viral No Hay, or “There’s None More Viral.”
Photographs of seemingly dead bodies strewn on the sand accompanied the text with two Mexican soldiers appearing in one image, gentle waves lapping the supposed corpses in the background.
But while Cancún and Quintana Roo have indeed endured a violent year with homicide rates spiking alarmingly, something was amiss.
The color of the sand and sea didn’t match the famous hues of the Mexican Caribbean and the soldiers appeared to have been superimposed over an original image with the use of Photoshop.
Social media users were quick to spot the discrepancies, with 95% of comments on Facebook warning that the images and the accompanying article were fake.
But that didn’t stop them from being shared more than 80,000 times from one Facebook page that was aiming to drive traffic to the disreputable website, potentially causing great harm to the tourism industry through the creation of panic and fear. The site that published the blatant lies urged people to share the story.
Local media outlets and government authorities were also quick to spot the attempt at deception.
Both the Quintana Roo government and the Tourism Secretariat (Sectur) responded forcefully, reporting the hoax to the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) and the Cyber Police and lodging complaints with internet giants Facebook and Google, which had allowed the fake news to take off.
Sectur also issued a statement clarifying that the information had no basis in reality.
The photographs used in the alarmist and fabricated story were in fact staged on a beach, but one that is thousands of kilometers away from Cancún in Cádiz, Spain, and taken as part of a project completed by two journalists to draw attention to the plight of migrants who have drowned at sea. Volunteers played the part of the alleged “victims.”
Just days before they were originally published in the Spanish newspaper El País in June last year, 117 dead bodies of migrants had washed up on a beach in Libya.
While some of the images published with the false Cancún story were in their original form, others had been doctored.
United States-based fact checking website Snopes also denounced the story as false and reported that the same photographs had previously been used in July as purported evidence of another fake news story, which claimed that nine children had been murdered in Acapulco, Guerrero.
The newspaper El Universal tracked some Facebook pages and sites responsible for disseminating the latest fake news story to a woman in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and reported that many of the pages that shared the phony article had taken measures to avoid being identified as spam.
El Universal also asserted that the fake story was a concerted, cunning and malicious attack on the Mexican tourism industry and raised the possibility that it may have political or economic motives.
Source: El Universal (sp)