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FACTCHECK

Debunked: Posts ‘as Gaeilge’ among more than 100 scam ads featuring presenter Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh

The ads follow a well-trodden formula that have been seen recently.

MORE THAN A hundred instances of scam ads featuring the Irish presenter Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh have appeared on social media recently, including at least eight that were written in Irish.

“Bhí Éire ar fad faoi bhrón le nuacht an lae inné,” one post reads. “Slán a fhágáil ag Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh leis an ngnáthshaol.”

While awkwardly worded, this translates to: “All of Ireland was upset with the news yesterday. Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh said goodbye to normal life.”

The ads follow a well-trodden formula: they imply an Irish celebrity, often a presenter or a political figure, has been publicly disgraced, arrested, imprisoned or attacked. 

The post leads readers to click through to websites often featuring further fake stories about the same celebrity, usually in an attempt to get readers to spend money to sign up to a hoax get-rich-quick scheme. 

Previous ads of this nature have featured politicians Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny, as well as television presenters such as Anne Doyle, Ryan Tubridy, Colette Fitzpatrick, Ciara Doherty, Brian Dowling, and Alan Hughes.

The Journal has previously debunked hoax ads featuring images of political strategist Alastair Campbell on the Late Late Show with Patrick Kielty; a fake interview of Eamon Ryan on the Tommy Tiernan Show; fake photos of presenter Tommy Bowe being escorted by PSNI officers; and fake AI-generated videos featuring Elon Musk and Irish BBC newsreader Tadhg Enright.

We have also debunked scam ads featuring Maura Derrane, which prompted Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, to remove some of the promoted posts. However, The Journal has found other scam ads featuring Derrane that are still available on the platform. 

The Journal was able to identify more than 100 ads that featured Ní Chofaigh and used sensationalised titles such as “the allegations against Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh have been confirmed” or “She didn’t know the microphone was on. These are her last words and the end of her career”, as well as some similar examples in Irish. 

scam1111 An example of one of the scam ads

The Meta ad library also returned more than 30 results for ads featuring Ní Chofaigh’s name that have since been removed for not following their Advertising Standards.

Meta has policies against sensational content and restrictions on promoting cryptocurrency in their ads.

Facebook has further Community Standards that prohibit content that “purposefully intends to deceive, willfully misrepresent or otherwise exploit others for money or property”.

Some of the ads still available include what appear to be doctored screenshots from the Irish Independent website featuring headlines that never ran. Some show images altered to appear to show Ní Chofaigh being arrested (though not by police in Garda uniforms). 

The ads, which have run as promoted posts on Facebook, were published from more than a dozen accounts, including the verified accounts of artists, musicians, athletes and even a Colombian government agency.  

Typically, the websites that are linked in the posts look legitimate but are actually clones of real websites; one frequent example is a fake version of the Irish Independent’s website, which claims to recount an interview on the TV show Ireland AM.

One fake interview sees Ní Chofaigh grabbing host Alan Hughes’s phone to pay €250 to sign him up for an Artificial Intelligence stock trading platform 

“Why would you do that on live TV? It could harm the state economy!” Hughes protests. “Think about it – if everyone starts getting rich, who would work in hospitals, schools, and factories? What would you say to that?”

The story culminates, at least 30 minutes later, with Ní Chofaigh victoriously showing Hughes that he has made his initial deposit back. “Now imagine how much money will be on the balance sheet in a month.”  Ní Chofaigh supposedly exclaimed.

“In just one month, those 250 euros can turn into 10,000 or even 12,000 euros!”

Suffice it to say, no such broadcast had been aired.

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