How a fake poster of Donald Trump went viral in Lebanon
On the morning of Friday, 7th of April, the U.S. military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield, in what was described as the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began nearly six years ago.
The operation, which the Donald Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, caused quite a stir on social media, with users dividing their opinions mainly on either celebrating the strikes, or by expressing their rejection of it.
Social Media reactions
And while some people went further on the media to hail Trump’s action, by declaring that they will be naming their newborn sons “Donald”, like what Qusai Zakarya, a syrian survivor from the 2013 chemical attack told the “Daily Telegraph”; Jad Shahrour, a Lebanese facebook user, published a modified image of a poster hung outside a building in the renowned Sassin square in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, showing the american president on it, with the caption “Sassin (square) now hehe #powerful_trump”.
And while Shahrour is currently working in a media position (as mentioned on his profile), his facebook friends list holds quite a number of journalists and people working in news websites across Lebanon.
This matter, while it cannot be highlighted as a main reason, made the image to be re-uploaded on several social media account, and also distributed over whatsapp groups (The most famous instant messaging app in Lebanon).
And as the modified image was shared around 1:57Pm of friday evening, Shahrour quickly got several of Facebook comments from people reacting to this image and asking for a clarification whether the image was true or photoshoped.
After couple of hours, Shahrour clearly replied on the same post at 5:04pm that the image has been modified stating: “.., I made this with photoshop and in less than a minute, hehe, does it look that real???”.
Copy Paste method
In spite of the fact that Shahrour clarified this issue on the same post, in which a notification will be sent to everyone who commented and reacted on his post, several news website caught the image and shared it with their followers, without getting back in touch with Shahrour to ask for a permission to do so, or even mentioning his name as a reference for the image.
From those well-known websites: Al-Marada.org, a politically affiliated website with Al-Marada, a pro-Syrian regime political party, and Al Hadath News, a pro-syrian regime news website along with Janoubia.com , an anti-Syrian regime news website.
Meanwhile, many users republished the same modified image on whatsapp, facebook pages and groups and profiles, twitter; copying the same content without doing any fact checking on this matter, knowing that Sassin square is in Beirut, and one of the busiest places in the capital.
At least only one facebook page (Akhbar961), with a fanbase of 6000 likes, managed to get a photographer on the spot to dismiss those claims, but accumulated only 10 Likes and 3 shares and 1 comment.
Politicians jump in
On the other side of the capital, the parliament convened in downtown Beirut, for a two-day session to quiz Cabinet over its performance.
During Friday session, Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar addressed a topic concerning the american president and the military attack on Syria, shrugging the importance of this action by saying “some people are happy with what he did, and I’ve been told that they hanged photos of him in some regions”, without mentioning the exact location.
On the same path, former MP Bechara Merhej went on his facebook account to announce his surprise that “some people in Lebanon were celebrating this aggression, and hanging Trump’s images in some public squares”.
And while the image is still being shared, especially within the pro-syrian community, it has become very difficult to follow up these posts to correct them.
A copy of this post was also published on Medium.