The Latest Misinformation To Hit Twitter: The Gorilla Channel

If you checked in on Twitter on Friday, you may have wondered why gorillas were dominating your feed. The reason? Well, some would call it fake news.

With the public, especially journalists, obsessing over “Fire and Fury,” the new Trump presidency tell-all from media writer Michael Wolff, one Twitter user decided to write up a fake excerpt from the book claiming that Trump is a fan of a fictional “gorilla channel.” This forced White House aides to set up a gorilla feed that he proceeded to watch for 17 hours straight, according to the fake excerpt.

The original tweet, posted by cartoonist Ben Ward, was retweeted over 20,000 times.

He admitted to fabricating the excerpt in a subsequent tweet that was retweeted less than 2,000 times.

Twitter was so taken with the new (fake) nugget from Wolff’s much-anticipated book that gorilla channel became a trending topic on Friday. Some users delighted in the joke, with one person tweeting at Spectrum to ask why the gorilla channel was not a part of his cable bundle. Spectrum’s support team couldn’t resist joining in the fun.

But the confusion raised serious concerns among other Twitter users. If the idea that Trump would watch 17 hours of gorilla footage is believable to so many people, they wondered, what does that say about our collective faith in the president?

Others pointed to the gorilla channel case as an example of how easily misinformation can spread on a medium like Twitter.

“On Twitter everything looks exactly the same so it’s hard to distinguish,” Daniel Funke, a reporter at Poynter, told MediaFile in a interview. Funke writes about misinformation and fact checking for the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter.

Funke sees the gorilla channel story as an example of how easy it is for misinformation to spread on social media, although he noted that this was not one of the biggest cases of misinformation spreading online. Still, the gorilla channel story had a surprisingly wide reach.

“There are mainstream reporters who didn’t really know if it was real or not,” said Funke. “But then again that might be a joke, too.”

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