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BBC forced to deny outbreak of nuclear war after fake news clip goes viral

Broadcaster distances itself from fictionalised report on Russian nuclear attack after video widely shared on WhatsApp

Chris Baynes
Friday 20 April 2018 14:09 BST
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BBC forced to deny reporting outbreak of nuclear war after fake news clip goes viral

The BBC has been forced to distance itself from a fake news clip reporting the outbreak of nuclear war after a video about purported conflict between Russia and Nato forces was widely circulated on social media.

The footage features a British presenter, who appears to be in a BBC News studio, solemnly telling viewers about escalating hostilities sparked by a Russian aircraft being shot down over Latvia.

The four-minute clip, which features the broadcaster’s logo, seemingly shows Russian naval ships firing cruise missiles, nuclear mushroom clouds, and the Queen being evacuated from Buckingham Palace.

The video ends with a purported “nuclear attack warning”, showing the Ministry of Defence and Home Office logos and listing British cities which it claims are considered prime targets.

The clip was shared around the world, particularly over WhatsApp, after it was posted on YouTube this week.

Some concerned viewers mistakenly believed it was genuine BBC footage, prompting the corporation to issue a statement on Twitter.

“This video clip claiming to be a BBC news report about Nato and Russia has been circulating widely,” the broadcaster said . “We’d like to make absolutely clear that it’s a fake and does not come from the BBC.”

In a further statement, a BBC spokeswoman added: “Over the last couple of days we have had people contact various BBC bureaux, mainly in Africa and Asia, as they had seen the video on WhatsApp and wanted to check if it was a real BBC report.

“WhatsApp seems to be the main platform it was being shared on but we know it’s circulated on other social media too. We’re keen to make clear that this isn’t a BBC News report.”

The original video contained a disclaimer making clear it was “fictional dramatisation”. However, an edited version without the disclaimer has been posted online and widely shared.

“A Russian air force plane have been allegedly fired at by US and NATO forces over Latvia,” wrote New Yorker Derryck Griffith on Facebook after watching the clip. “If this is indeed the case, then we are facing another potentially Global War with Russia.”

Anas Muhammed Ibrahim, from Nigeria, shared the video with the comment: “Get somewhere safe... WWIII has started”.

Mark Ryes, a British actor who appears in the clip as the presenter, said the video was commissioned in 2016 by Benchmarking Assessment Group, an Irish headhunting company.

“I was told it was for a psychometric test for their clients to see how people would react in a disaster scenario for a scientific study,” he told The Independent. “The video was shot on green screen. I had no part in the editing or production of the final piece. I didn’t know what final background images would be used.”

He added: “I did not think or know at the time of filming that the video was to be released to the public, let alone put on social media. Once I was alerted to it being on YouTube, albeit with a disclaimer, I contacted the company immediately. However they did not take the video down and I had no power to remove the video myself.”

It is not clear how the video surfaced online.

The Independent contacted Benchmarking Assessment Group but had received no response at the time of publication.

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