The Guardian reports:
German media and politicians have warned against an election-year spike in fake news after the rightwing website Breitbart claimed a mob chanting “Allahu Akbar” had set fire to a church in the city of Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.
After the report by the US site was widely shared on social media, the city’s police clarified that no “extraordinary or spectacular” incidents had marred the festivities. The local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten, said elements of its online reporting on New Year’s Eve had been distorted by Breitbart to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda”.
Tens of thousands clicked and shared the Breitbart.com story with the headline “Revealed: 1,000-man mob attack police, set Germany’s oldest church alight on New Year’s Eve”. It said the men had “chanted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), launched fireworks at police and set fire to a historic church”, while also massing “around the flag of al-Qaida and Islamic State collaborators the Free Syrian Army.”
The local newspaper said Breitbart had combined and exaggerated unconnected incidents to create a picture of chaos and of foreigners promoting terrorism. Stray fireworks did start a small blaze, but only on netting covering scaffolding on the church and it was put out after about 12 minutes, the paper reported. The roof was not on fire and the church is not Germany’s oldest.