News of a devastating fire at Paris’s famous Notre Dame cathedral on April 15 2019 created a flashpoint of global interest, followed by immediate rumors that the blaze was an act of arson or terror.
On Twitter, a since-deleted tweet published by TIME magazine columnist Christopher J. Hale appears to have contributed to early versions of that particular rumor:
You deleted your tweet saying your Jesuit friend who works in Notre Dame told you this is arson.
— Narata Studio (@NarataCards) April 15, 2019
Readers who clicked through to the article were directed to the site Summit.news (which lacks an informative “about” page), and an article headlined, “Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Fire, Worker Claims it Was ‘Deliberately’ Started, Media reports claimed fire linked to ‘renovation’ work.” That article claimed that “one worker” had said that the fire was an act of arson, citing Hale’s deleted tweet as its source:
The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is on fire, with one worker claiming that the blaze was deliberately set.
The roof of the historic building has completely collapsed.
What wasn’t immediately apparent was that Summit.news is an aggregation site that does not appear to do any original reporting and dabbles heavily in disinformation; the republished article shown here was originally from the conspiracy-pushing site InfoWars.
That story was augmented by a screen-captured video taken by the author of the names of individuals who allegedly laugh-reacted to a video of the Notre Dame fire:
A brief summary of who is responding to the tragic Notre Dame fire with 'smiley faces' on Facebook. Appalling. https://t.co/OBANPl9Wpv
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) April 15, 2019
However, it is difficult to know what this actually proves, if anything at all, as names do not give any indication into mentality or mindset.
Hale deleted his tweet claiming that a worker said the Notre Dame fire was “intentionally set,” as well as a follow-up tweet in which he admitted the claim was an “unsubstantiated rumor.” A rapidly-spreading article saying otherwise originated on known disinformation site InfoWars, and it was republished by a site without any obvious indication of its source.