The Agence France-Presse on Thursday updated a misleading headline that suggested that Russia manipulated US vote totals on Election Day through hacking.
“US sanctions Russia over vote hacking,” read an AFP headline.
The Obama administration leveled sanctions against Russia on Thursday for election-related hacking. But there is no evidence that Russian hackers broke into election systems to change vote totals. The White House and US intelligence agencies have only accused Moscow of hacking the Democratic National Committee and political operatives.
The AFP later corrected its headline to read: “US punishes Russia over election hacks.”
An editor’s note was not attached to the story. In a short phone conversation with Business Insider, Chris Lefkow, chief North America editor for AFP, declined to say his publication made an error publishing the initial headline.
Lefkow said critics were reading the headline too “literally.” He then hung up the phone amid further questioning.
Critics had, indeed, seized on the AFP’s initial headline to go after the news outlet. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, tweeted, “Some news outlets appear to want their readers to (incorrectly) think Russia tampered with vote totals.”
Others replied to the AFP’s story on Twitter and accused it of propagating “fake news.”
Since President-elect Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, many in the media have focused on the prevalence of “fake news” and how it could have swayed some individuals to vote for the Republican businessman.
Conservatives have met the narrative with extreme scepticism. They argue that, while not fabricated out of thin air, much of the news reported by the so-called mainstream media is inaccurate or, as they characterise it, its own form of “fake news.”
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