By Shawn Rice
A tourist to New Zealand dying when attempting to take an “alligator selfie” is fake news. There is no truth to a report that a woman’s death in Pensacola was the result of trying to capture herself in an “alligator selfie.” Where did this fake news originate?
In April 2017, Florida Sun Post, which appeared to be the regional news outlet, published an article claiming a tourist from New Zealand died in her effort to take an “alligator selfie.” You can read text from that fake news article below. Stuff.co.nz reported on 12 April 2017 that the fake news story had been “picked up by a major Kiwi news outlet,” but did not link to that version.
“A 26-year old woman from New Zealand on vacation in Pensacola has died in a tragic accident after she reportedly attempted to ‘take a selfie with an alligator’ on the Edward Ball nature trail. Witnesses at the scene claimed that they warned the woman that the alligator was moving behind her, but she was too slow to react before it struck, seizing her legs and dragging her into the lake.
The incident occurred just off the nature trail close to the University of Western Florida. The area is known to be the home of several gators, although there have been few cases of anyone receiving serious injuries from gator attacks in the area. That said, approaching a wild gator to take a photo is definitely not recommended.
“I’ve lived in Pensacola all my life,” said one witness, who was walking her dogs along the trail, “but never have I seen anyone take such a big risk, and for so little.” According to the witness, the New Zealand tourist, who is yet to be formally named, deviated from the trail despite being warned by several locals that the gator may attack. “She risked her life to take a photo with a gator? It’s madness, why would you do a thing like that?”
However, there is no truth to this story, according to Snopes. Although the fake article appeared to be a legitimate news report from a local outlet, the site shows signs to be one of a growing number of “regional fake news” sites. Sites such as the Baltimore Gazette, the Sacramento Dispatch, the Salt Lake City Guardian, and the Houston Dispatch pose as the digital versions of local newspapers, in order to mislead readers into believing they are legitimate outlets located elsewhere. Sometimes, they are pretty convincing and confuse readers.
Here are some examples of people sharing the fake news on social media.
— Keith Mac (@Macs_Wax) April 13, 2017
New Zealand alligator selfie death story from fake news website – Manawatu Standard
— celeb faker (@celeb_fake_news) April 12, 2017
New Zealand tourist dies after trying to take ‘alligator selfie’ in Pensacola https://t.co/VY6ioZYrtk
— ErinKauai’i (@ErinMKearney) <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" Go to the full article.