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Imposter Content During the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Ouissal Harize Ouissal Harize
22nd December 2022
Imposter Content During the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Imposter content lends credibility to fake news (Getty)

Misinformation and disinformation have gone rampant before and during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Misbar has debunked several claims that were shared in various forms. 

While some internet users shared unsubstantiated quotes that were attributed to players or coaches, others shared outdated visual content and alleged that it was related to the 2022 World Cup. 

Another dangerous way of spreading misinformation and disinformation came in the form of what is known as “Imposter content.”

This blog looks into the definition of imposter content, its dangers, and the way it has been used during the 2022 World Cup.

What is Imposter Content?

Imposter content is a way of sharing misinformation or disinformation that comes in the form of digitally fabricated imagery that mimics genuine media outlets, organizations, or well-regarded people.

Imposter content relies on the illegitimate use of a journalist’s name or their biography alongside articles they did not write, or social media posts they did not share. 

Imposter content could also be shared in the form of videos falsely showcasing a newsroom logo. Usually, imposter content is based on a replica of the respective outlet’s design.

By relying on the impersonation of reliable sources, imposter content lends credibility to fake news. According to The Washington Post, “Impostor content is often designed to launder faulty ideas through a credible source.”

Scott Radnitz, an associate professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, says that the “information war” usually targets particular audiences who are more susceptible to consuming and re-sharing misinformation: “In a sense, to have one's brand appropriated to mask propaganda or misinformation should be considered an honor, as the name BBC, CNN or DW will only be used if it is seen to represent credibility.”

Imposter Content Related to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Imposter content is particularly dangerous because its plausibility garners attention and guarantees the spread of misinformation.

Social media has exacerbated the problem. People who cannot afford to pay to have access to news usually rely on social media to get the news quickly and free of charge in the form of images or videos. 

Misbar investigated several dubious claims about the 2022 World Cup that were shared in the form of Imposter Content. 

beIN Sports Did Not Announce a Delay in Its World Cup Broadcast

Prior to the opening of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, social media users shared a claim purporting that beIN Sports MENA announced that it will broadcast the 2022 World Cup games on a three-minute delay to prevent broadcasting any inappropriate images.

The claim was accompanied by what was alleged to be an official notice from beIN Sports MENA detailing various clauses including not airing footage that has homosexuality. The alleged notice can be seen below.

A supporting image within the article body

beIN Sports released a statement via their official Twitter asserting that the circulating document is fake. 

A supporting image within the article body

Al Jazeera Did Not Report Three Drunk Ukrainians Arrested in Qatar

Social media users shared a news video that was attributed to Al Jazeera. The video claims that three drunk Ukrainian fans were arrested in Doha after they added Nazi symbols to posters featuring the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 mascot “La’eeb.”

A supporting image within the article body

On November 24, Al Jazeera clarified that the video is fake.

Charlie Hebdo Did Not Publish a Cover Associating Ukraine With Nazism

As the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 was taking place, social media users widely shared a claim alleging that the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo published a cover associating Ukraine with Nazism. 

In the circulating image, Ukrainian fans are depicted as defacing a FIFA World Cup 2022 poster. Two Arab men are also featured holding a Ukrainian-to-Arabic dictionary. The speech bubble above them reads: “It is something in Ukrainian.”

Misbar investigated the circulating claim and found it to be fake. The alleged cover is fabricated.

Misbar’s team thoroughly investigated the Charlie Hebdo’s website and official accounts and found no reference to this alleged cover.

Charlie Hebdo had previously published a cover satirizing the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, but it was completely different from the one in the circulating claim.

The New York Times Did Not Publish an Article About Moroccan Fans’ Famine

After the impressively successful performance of Morocco’s national team, social media users from the MENA region shared an image attributed to The New York Times. According to the claim, the article featuring photos of Moroccan football fans was titled “Famine Appears on the Faces of Moroccans.”

A supporting image within the article body

Misbar investigated the circulating claim and found it to be fake. 

The circulating image was fabricated. The fabricated image was based on a print issue of The New York Times that was published in May 2013. 

The original article reported the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh and has nothing to do with Morocco.

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How to Spot Imposter Content on Social Media?

These are some of the red flags that can help internet users spot imposter content:

  • The Date:

Fabricated images and video that are attributed to news sources are very often edited from authentic material. A wrong date could be a proof of manipulation.

  • The Logo:

Imposter content creators are not always meticulous when copying or replicating news organizations’ logos, which can be easily detected by comparing between the news agency’s latest posts and the circulating visual content.

  • The Font:

Imposter content can also easily be discovered if the font used in the circulating visual content is different from the font found in previous articles or social media content by the media outlet.

  • Traceability:

A reverse image search, or a thorough keyword search can help you find out whether the material is genuine or fake.

  • The Format:

Screenshots should be verified since a more reliable way of sharing news can be done via direct retweets or post sharing.

Misbar’s Sources

The Washington Post

Ethical Media Training