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No, CNN didn’t report that Elon Musk would threaten free speech on Twitter

A screenshot of a doctored CNN headline about Elon Musk, free speech and Twitter that went viral has been widely mistaken as authentic. The manipulated image was originally published by a satire website. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A Facebook post that says “Truly they have a dizzying intellect.” The post contains a screenshot that includes the false headline, “CNN: Elon Musk could threaten free speech on Twitter by literally allowing people to speak freely.” The screenshot also includes a byline from the satirical website Genesius Times and what appears to be a video still from a CNN broadcast with an on-screen text banner that repeats the bogus headline. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, "DOCTORED IMAGE."
This is not an authentic screenshot of a CNN broadcast.
CNN did not include this statement concerning Elon Musk in any of its broadcasts.
This is a screenshot of a parody article published by the satirical website Genesius Times.
Both the photo of Musk and the text at the bottom of the screen were added digitally.

NewsLit takeaway

Digital images are easy to manipulate and even easier to copy and repost out of context. In this case, a satirical website used a doctored video still from a Jan. 28, 2020, broadcast featuring CNN anchor Don Lemon with a parody article about Musk joining Twitter’s board of directors. However, it’s clear from responses to this rumor (see here, here and here) that many people believed it was authentic. Stealing images, other graphics and headlines from satirical articles is a common tactic used to spark outrage or partisan disdain. But such pieces can spread confusion and misperceptions about organizations and institutions and important issues like content moderation. This example includes several noticeable red flags for readers who pause long enough to notice them: The name of the publication (Genesius Times) and the questionable byline (Exavier Saskagoochie) both suggest this isn’t a legitimate story, as does the clumsily doctored text at the bottom of the image.

Related: “Fact Check-Screenshot purporting to show CNN tweet claiming that child soldiers are fighting in eastern Ukraine is digitally altered” (Reuters Fact Check).

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