A screenshot has circulated across Twitter, Reddit and Facebook claiming to show an Anchorage Daily News article with the headline: “Virginia man arrested for having minecraft worlds that were exact replicas of classified US military bases.”
Minecraft is a video game that was acquired by Microsoft and is reportedly the best-selling game of all time. Players in the game build and create virtual worlds using blocks.
A tweet from @freeduck5, an account with just over 4,500 followers, with the screenshot had been retweeted more than 15,000 times at the time of publishing.
Was this a real article from the Anchorage Daily News?
No, reporters with the Anchorage Daily News confirmed this was a fabricated article seen in the screenshot. There is no record of the article existing.
WHAT WE FOUND
Morgan Krakow, a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News and the reporter whose byline was on the faked screenshot, wrote on Twitter that she never wrote that article.
She wrote that she woke up to emails about the screenshot, saying: “They linked to a tweet (not sharing here because I don't think it's worth spreading further) with a screengrab that looked identical to our site. It had my byline.”
“The fabricated story was weird: something about a guy who had been arrested after sharing exact replicas of classified military bases on Minecraft. Wtf,” the Twitter thread continued. “But here's where the discomfort comes in: at first I was like, okay, obviously this is dumb. But then I noticed the retweets and likes flowing in: doubling between the time I woke up and finished a news meeting this morning. And I started to worry…”
“The thing that left my feeling queasy (more than usual), is that it looked super real. Like, so real that I spent several minutes trying to make sure I didn't actually write it. Part of me is still pretty anxious about this. And that's what scared me,” she wrote.
“As a reporter COVID-19, I often scratch my head at all the people who have been misled by stuff online. In way more sinister versions, fake or fabricated information has had real-life and devastating consequences,” she wrote. “Anyways, an incredibly weird way to start the day. It just underscored how easy it might be to believe fake stuff and how bad it is out there: misinformation and disinformation abounds. Grateful to all the people around the world working tirelessly to dispel it.”
Kyle Hopkins, a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News also tweeted that the image was a “fabricated screenshot of the ADN website.”
Hopkins wrote: “This Tweet, which is approaching 9,000 retweets, shares a completely fabricated screenshot of the ADN website. What is the goal here? What kind of misinformation / chaos campaign is this part of?”
He was referring to the tweet from the @freeduck5 account.
Using reverse image search, VERIFY could trace the meme to the website iFunny, which is a meme-sharing website. This is the earliest version VERIFY could find of this screenshot.
VERIFY could not confirm the origin of the photo of the man seen in the screenshot but did find the Minecraft plane seen in the image on Minecraft.net, a Minecraft forum.
VERIFY also could find no trace of an article with this headline on the Anchorage Daily News website, or anywhere else on the internet.
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