Several large Spanish-language media outlets have published a completely false report that Omar Mateen texted his wife to tell her he carried out the Orlando shootings because he was gay.
The story originated on ABCNews.com.co, a site intended to spoof the real ABC News website. Its hoax story featured a fake text message from Mateen that supposedly had been released by the FBI.
ABCNews.com.co publishes only fake news stories. In the past it scored hits with hoaxes such as a claim that Bill Murray would be running for U.S. president, and a story about Donald Trump naming Sheriff Joe Arpaio as his running mate.
It appears that El Mundo, a major newspaper in Spain, was the first to fall for the hoax. It published a story that attributed the information to the real ABC News. The paper also translated many of the details from the fake story.
By the time El Mundo removed its story it was already too late. The hoax had spread quickly through Spanish-language media in other parts of the world. El Comercio in Peru and El Pais in Uruguay ran the story, with both offering credit to ABC News and El Mundo.
Google News is now filled with articles in Spanish that report the hoax as true. They credit ABC News or other Spanish-language media such as El Mundo with the information.
Meanwhile, the hoax isn't getting as much traction in English. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had been shared close to 600 times on Facebook but had not fooled any major media outlets.
Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.
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J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211
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