Conspiracy Theories Rise From The Notre Dame Ashes
Despite French authorities ruling out arson as a cause of the fire the conspiracy theories surrounding the Notre Dame fire continues.
Far-right commentators and fake news sites have been sharing conspiracy theories about who was behind the Notre Dame Cathedral tragedy.
Overwhelmingly Muslims are being 'blamed' for the devastating fire, despite the lack of evidence to back the claims.
While some of it came from alt-right figures with large online followers, other more calculated attempts at disinformation were spread via fake Twitter accounts posing as CNN and Fox News.
More than 3.5 million tweets were sent in the 24 hours following the blaze.
The massive blaze that erupted on Monday in the French capital destroyed much of the timber roof and toppled the spire of the cathedral, which was in the middle of a multi-million dollar renovation.
The Paris prosecutor's office said that "as matters stand" it was investigating a count of "involuntary destruction by fire".
At this stage, it's believed the fire might have been linked to the renovation work.
A tweet sent from a fake CNN Twitter account planted the idea that the fire was an act of terrorism.
CNN executive Matt Dornic said Twitter initially refused to take action against the account spreading a fake CNN story linking the fire to terrorism. The social media giant claimed it was a parody.
Meanwhile, a post from the fake Fox News account presented a fabricated tweet from Somali-American politician Ilhan Omar saying “They reap what they sow” in reference to Notre Dame.
Omar did not tweet that, however, people continued sharing the fake tweet long after the account was suspended.
These fake accounts, both of which have been deleted by Twitter, did not have a blue verified check next to their names. They also had relatively few followers.
Alt-right supporters also used the Cathedral fire to spread anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric on social media.
Alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups including white supremacists, populists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
Richard Spencer -- a white supremacist leader of the alt-right, said the fire would have "served a glorious purpose" if it pushed the "white man into action". Spencer has more than 75000 followers.
Anti-Muslim figure Pamela Geller posted a photograph of two men who appeared to stand near the scene of the Notre Dame fire.
"Jihadists reveled (sic)… sharing media photos of the flames billowing smoke, and comments expressing their joy", she said in her post.
Gellar has 200k followers and shared these photographs which have not been verified.
Conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec compared the blaze to the September 11 terror attacks, despite no link having made to terrorism by French officials.
Alt-right activist Faith Goldy falsely claimed that three days previously “a Muslim jihadist in Paris was arrested for planning a terrorist attack at Notre-Dame Cathedral."
Alice Weidel, parliamentary leader of the far-right German AfD party, linked the blaze to “discrimination against Christians."
She tweeted “during Holy Week Notre-Dame burns. March: second largest church Saint-Sulpice burns. February: 47 attacks in France.”
Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz said his office was "favouring the theory of an accident" and has assigned 50 people to investigate the cause of the fire.
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