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Fake News Report Falsely Claims Mark Zuckerberg Arrested for Child Molestation

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Circulating message couched as a news report claims that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been arrested on child molestation charges.

Brief Analysis

The claims in the message are totally untrue. The story originated from an entirely bogus “news report” that was posted on a user-submitted news website. The story was simply made up by its submitter and has since been removed.

Example

BREAKING: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrested for Child Molestation

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been arrested in Palo Alto and charged with 2 felony counts of child molestation, news sites are reporting. The Palo Alto Police Department took Zuckerberg into custody at 11 pm PT Sunday evening. According to the criminal complaint, the alleged incidents began occurring in November last year and involve one victim, an under-aged girl.

The complaint accuses the 27-year-old Zuckerberg of engaging in acts “with the intent of arousing, appealing to, and gratifying the lust, passions, and sexual desires of the defendant, who was at least 15 years older than [the victim].”

 

Detailed Analysis

This supposed news report began making its way around online forums and social networks in early July, 2011. The “report” claims that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been arrested in Palo Alto and charged with two counts of child molestation.

However, the claims in the story have no basis in fact whatsoever. The story is in fact not news at all, but an entirely made up report posted on CNN’s iReport website. iReport is a service that allows people to submit information in the form of user news reports. These user-submitted reports are not vetted by CNN before they are published on the site. Information about the service posted on the iReport website notes:

Welcome to iReport, where people take part in the news with CNN. Your voice, together with other iReporters, helps shape how and what CNN covers every day.

So you know: iReport is the way people like you report the news. The stories in this section are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post. Only ones marked ‘CNN iReport’ have been vetted by CNN.

If used properly and ethically, such a service has merit in that it allows ordinary people to play a role as citizen journalists. However, like Wikipedia and other user-submitted systems, iReport is open to abuse by unscrupulous users.

In this case, the “iReporter” has simply made up the fake report about Zuckerberg and posted it on the site. Because stories submitted on iReport look at first glance like mainstream CNN news reports, many people were apparently fooled into believing that the Zuckerberg child molestation rumour was true. The fake story was quickly removed from the site, but not before it “escaped” into cyberspace and began circulating in the guise of a genuine news report.

And for the record, there are no credible news reports that claim Zuckerberg has been arrested. Of course, if such a high profile arrest had taken place, it would be prominently featured on news outlets around the world.

Predictably, some of the more wide-eyed conspiracy theorists out there are already suggesting that the media silence is because Mark Zuckerberg has somehow used his wealth and influence to “hush-up” the case. Such claims are, of course, absurd. No amount of money or influence could stop a world media – always ravenous for the next “juicy” story that they can sensationalize – from reporting on such a high profile case.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer