Were ‘Muslim Jihadis in Paris’ Arrested for Planning an Attack Three Days Before the Notre Dame Fire?

Soon after the April 15 2019 Notre Dame Cathedral fire broke out, Twitter user @FaithGoldy tweeted that the blaze occurred shortly after the arrest of “three Muslim jihadis” in Paris (archived here):

A screenshot of the tweet was subsequently shared by the Facebook page “Freedom From Tyranny” (archived here.) The original tweet linked to an April 2019 article which, when seen in headline-and-subheading format, appeared to support Goldy’s claim. But previews of the headline embedded in social media posts left out a critically relevant portion:

France jails ‘jihadist’ woman (22) accused over foiled 2016 terror attack in Paris

The article reported:

ONE OF THREE women allegedly involved in a foiled plot in 2016 to blow up a car packed with gas canisters near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was today sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court for earlier offences.

Ines Madani, 22, was sentenced following a three-day trial during which she was accused of encouraging would-be jihadists to go to Syria and participate in attacks against France between March 2015 and June 2016.

Goldy was demonstrably aware that the tweet was misleading, as she shared a quiet “correction” shortly afterward:

However, the second tweet received under two dozen shares, while the misleading one was shared thousands of times. Moreover, when screenshots of the tweet migrated to platforms like Facebook, they lacked a live link to the article, the “correction,” and the complete headline which clearly contradicted Goldy’s claims.

In her initial tweet, Goldy claimed that three days before a devastating fire at Notre Dame, “Muslim jihadis in Paris” were arrested for planning a terrorist attack there. However, Goldy was well aware her tweet was misleading, and that no such arrests took place three days before the fire. As the linked article reported, the sentencing — not arrest — involved “a foiled plot” in 2016, not 2019, years before the fire destroyed much of the world-famous Parisian landmark.

Old news stories with headlines that do not specify a timeframe are often weaponized by disinformation purveyors to great effect, as many people cannot or will not read the linked story because of time constraints or a paywall. Newsrooms can avoid this and other pitfalls by changing the headlines on old stories and clearly labeling publishing dates. We detail this and other easy methods for stopping or slowing the spread of weaponized disinformation and corrosive propaganda here.