Earlier this month, a seemingly real BBC News account tweeted that Queen Elizabeth had died. The tweet quickly caused chaos online, receiving thousands of retweets. However, online detectives and news organizations debunked the tweet within a matter of hours. Unfortunately, the tweet impacted many around the world before most found out about the hoax. Now, days after the incident, people are still speculating about the Queen’s health.
Here’s everything you need to know about what will surely be one of the biggest tales of fake news this year!
The Shocking News – And The Hoax
At the beginning of January, a shocking tweet surfaced from the Twitter account @BBCNewsUKI. The message said that Buckingham Palace had announced Queen Elizabeth II’s death, due to unknown circumstances. The news spread like wildfire, with the tweet receiving thousands of retweets. Many commenters expressed their grief and offered speculations to the Queen’s cause of death. However, no reports were coming in from anywhere else, such as the BBC website or the news channel itself.
Then, after a few hours, the same account tweeted, “Love a Tuesday off if the queens dead, announce it before it’s too late.” A strange, rather mean tweet for a news organization…
That’s when the truth set in: users were victims of a prank by online trolls. In retrospect, users likey should have picked up on some clues that the account was a fake. Most importantly, @BBCNewsUKI wasn’t verified in any way, shape, or form. Twitter verification notifies users that a particular account is trustworthy by placing a blue check mark next to the account’s name. The @BBCNewsUKI account, now deactivated, did not have a verification check mark. However, despite being a fake, the tweet did spark some conversation about Queen Elizabeth…
Is Queen Elizabeth In Good Health?
By the next day, the news of Queen Elizabeth’s fake death report became viral. Even though it was proven false, people still speculated there might be some truth behind it. Perhaps Buckingham Palace was hiding facts from the public; maybe the Queen needed hospitalization, and someone was too quick to alert a reporter. Some curious Brits even took it upon themselves to check whether the report was real or not, and went down to Buckingham Palace to check for any odd signs or activity.
It’s easy to see why some might fall for the hoax: the Queen is 90 and reports state she is in poor health. She hasn’t made a public appearance in weeks, and for the first time thirty years, Queen Elizabeth did not attend the Christmas Day church service she commands every single year. Reports coming from the palace said she was “recovering from a heavy cold.”
Besides her health conditions, it is known that the BBC will make the announcement when Her Majesty passes away. In fact, the BBC runs regular rehearsals for when a royal member passes unexpectedly!
Falling For Fake Online Reports & How To Avoid It
According to royal experts, it is doubtful the BBC would announce a royal death on social media. It is much more likely they will broadcast it on their networks first, the way they announced Queen Elizabeth I’s passing in 2002.
In 2015, Ahmen Khawaja, a BBC journalist, tweeted out a similar message about the Queen’s death. This also created mayhem all over the world. Thankfully, BBC deleted the tweet quickly and claimed it was sent during a “technical rehearsal for an obituary.” This confirmed what many already believed: Britain’s official broadcast network is actively rehearsing for the day Queen Elizabeth passes away.
Unfortunately, it’s too easy to fall for these hoaxes. For most people, writing, liking, or sharing a tweet about a person’s death seems respectful. They think: “why would someone make it up? It just doesn’t make sense that someone would make up a fake death.” Internet pranksters use this to their advantage and spread fake news about fake deaths – knowing others will believe it. It’s important to educate ourselves on real news accounts (such as the verified ones) and always check multiple sources before sharing any sort of news online.