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Cuba blames Twitter for helping to spread Castro death rumours

A state-run website says Twitter allowed the phrase ‘fidelcastro’ to trend, furthering a false rumour that he had died.

This image - supposedly showing Fidel Castro lying in a coffin - circulated last year during a previous wave of rumours about Castro's apparent death.
This image - supposedly showing Fidel Castro lying in a coffin - circulated last year during a previous wave of rumours about Castro's apparent death.

CUBAN STATE MEDIA has accused Twitter of helping to spread a rumour that its former leader Fidel Castro had died – and criticised anti-Castro expatriates it dubbed “necrophiliac counterrevolutionaries” for jumping on the story.

An article on the state-run Cubadebate web site accused Twitter of allowing the user @Naroh to start the rumour on Monday from an Italian server, then quickly deactivate the account.

It said Twitter then helped spread the disinformation by allowing the hash tag “fidelcastro” to become a trending topic. It briefly became the fourth most popular in the world as it drew many more people to the subject.

The site also accused Twitter of censoring subjects in the past that were in favor of the Cuban government.

Cubadebate also blamed anti-Castro expatriates anxious to see Castro’s demise for gleefully furthering the rumour, saying “necrophiliac counterrevolutionaries, aided by some media, immediately started to party.”

Castro, 85, turned power over to his brother Raul in 2006 during an illness that nearly killed him. He is officially retired, though he occasionally publishes opinion columns.

In recent months, Castro has alluded to the limits of age, but has also taken pride in his longevity. Cuba boasts that along with besting the actuarial tables, the former Cuban leader has survived hundreds of assassination attempts at the hands of his enemies in the United States.

Cubadebate noted that a false story about Castro’s demise was spread on the Internet and elsewhere back in August.

On that occasion, there was even a computer virus embedded in a spam email titled “Fidel is Dead,” which featured a doctored, grainy photograph of the former Cuban leader that appeared to show him lying in a coffin.

Cubadebate reiterated a refrain it used the last time the Castro rumours began, saying that the latest hubbub was spread by “people inventing things in the virtual world that even the CIA could not accomplish in real life.”

There was no immediate reaction from Twitter. Rumours that a celebrity or other public figure is dead are common on social media sites and can spread quickly because of their nature.

@Naroh, for his part, denies any knowledge of involvement, tweeting that he had “no idea” why his account – which remains active, and is not based in Italy – was mentioned.

– Paul Haven, additional reporting Gavan Reilly

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