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How COVID-19 deniers ‘Periodistas por la Verdad’ tried to fool news organizations by pretending to be the Poynter Institute

Publicado viernes, 8 octubre 2021
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Maldita.es recently received an email from [email protected]. To the naked eye, it seemed like a legit address belonging to Poynter, home to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) of which Maldita.es is part of, but we soon found out that it was an attempt to supplant the organization and fool some of its signatories from over 70 countries. The domain was registered from Spain on October 1st 2021. 

Behind that account hides a COVID-19 denial group called ‘Periodistas Por la Verdad’ (‘Journalists for Truth in English”), whom which, with that account, aim to deceit journalists from Spanish media by delivering  a fake press release. The document turned out to be a disinforming essay written by ‘Biologos por la Verdad’, ('Biologists for Truth') another well-known COVID-19-denying group that has spread disinformation throughout the pandemic. 

The flawed press release claimed that Spain’s Health Ministry had admitted it didn’t have SARS CoV 2 cultured cells. They said so to question whether the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has really been isolated and cultured in laboratories. Maldita.es has debunked these claims as the coronavirus has indeed been isolated in Spanish labs despite the Ministry saying it hasn’t got any SARS CoV 2 cultured cells.

“Conspiracy movements are currently attacking fact-checkers because our daily work undermines their efforts to expand lies. It comes as no surprise that they would try to impersonate the International Fact-checking Network and the Poynter Institute in order to disseminate their false theories” said the International Fact-checking Network Director, Baybars Örsek. In conversation with Maldita.es he anticipated that the IFCN would warn its community  “in case this method takes place in other countries in the future”. 

Fact-checkers de más de 70 países nos hemos unido para luchar contra las mentiras y la infodemia que ha traído consigo la pandemia de coronavirus. Puedes consultar los desmentidos en la base de datos CoronaVirusFacts del International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) .

A deceiving action unveiled in a Telegram channel

In a Telegram channel with over 7.000 followers, the denial group said that they simulated the identity of the Poynter Institute to “mislead” journalists and claims to have delivered the press release to almost “500 reporters”.