Image of CNN report about Elon Musk came from parody site
CLAIM: An image shows CNN aired a chyron that said “Elon Musk could threaten free speech on Twitter by literally allowing people to speak freely.”
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. CNN aired no such report about Musk “threatening free speech,” and the chyron was digitally altered to add the text. The image purporting to be from a CNN broadcast originated on a satirical website.
THE FACTS: After Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired a 9% stake in Twitter to become its largest shareholder and joined the company’s board of directors on Monday, some social media users began spreading false claims about coverage of the news.
The satirical outlet Genesius Times, which calls itself “the most reliable source of fake news on the planet,” published an article Tuesday under the headline “CNN: Elon Musk could threaten free speech on Twitter by literally allowing people to speak freely.” The post included a photo of CNN anchor Don Lemon appearing to speak about Musk during a recent broadcast, with the chyron below Lemon featuring the same text as the headline.
Screenshots just displaying the image and headline — without any indication it was satire — quickly spread online. While some users pointed out that the original report is meant to be humorous and that the image is a meme, others on Facebook and Twitter appeared to believe the image came from a genuine CNN broadcast.
One such Facebook post sharing just the headline and image received more than 1,000 likes and shares, with comments criticizing CNN for apparently running the report. “Makes total sense …to CNN. Doesn’t matter much if you check CNN’s ratings,” one user wrote. Others sharing the image wrote “CNN should be shut down,” and “They do not support the constitution.”
A Twitter user sharing the headline and image simply put the caption: “Wait… WHAT?!?” receiving more than 4,000 shares and 10,000 likes.
But the image and report are satire, not authentic.
“It’s a fabricated image and not an actual report from CNN,” Emily Kuhn, senior director of communications at CNN Digital Worldwide, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press.
Other visual elements indicate that the image is not real. The image used an old still from a previous CNN report by Lemon, with a stock photo of Musk added next to him. The text on the chyron does not match the format or style of CNN’s usual lower-thirds. The font is slightly different, and the letters are spaced farther apart. The chyron background is also discolored, and the CNN logo is blurry. The byline on the parody article, Exavier Saskagoochie, is another indication of satire.
Musk has criticized Twitter publicly in the past, questioning the social media platform’s dedication to free speech and the First Amendment. In March, the billionaire posted a tweet asking whether the platform was undermining democracy.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.