The Week in Fake News #5 – The £127m Shepherd’s Bush Replica

Since we started this series about a month ago, there have been a number of important changes in the world of Fake News. Firstly, Facebook announced a feature that would alert users to stories that had been disputed by multiple fact-checking sources. Soon after this was rolled out, a blog post written by Facebook, title ‘Tips to Spot False News’, started to make the rounds.

We’re not accusing Mark Zuckerberg of anything (please don’t sue us), but the post does look suspiciously like our original guide to debunking online falsehoods. Just sayin’. Whatever the case, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find fake stories because of these developments – an objectively good thing, yet one that makes this column much harder to write. But we persevere, albeit in a reduced capacity.

This week’s edition of TWiFN will therefore focus on a single story. Fortunately, it’s really, really great.

What is it? Shepherd’s Bush £127m replica to be built in Middle Eastern desert by Omani Sheikh

Fake

What website? Independent, 11 April 2017

What’s the story?Fahad Abdullah Al Araimi, a west London loving Sheikh, plans to build a replica of Shepherd’s Bush in Muscat, Oman, for the small price of £127 million.

Is it Fake?Yes, as the headline is very misleading.

Why?Never has a headline promised so much and delivered so little.

Picture Shepherd’s Bush; a vibrant, diverse community encompassing the best of London. On any given day, people of all faiths, ages and backgrounds flow across its pavements and exceptionally busy multi-laned roads on their way to school, or to the famous street market, or to wherever Australians go, because there are loads of Australians in Shepherd’s Bush.

This west London neighbourhood represents the openness of the capital, and if a Sheikh was going to replicate any pocket of London in Oman for £127 million, you’d hope it was Shepherd’s Bush. Perhaps he’d fashion a replica of the Westway and fill it with replica National Express coaches; or he’d import a load of grimey pigeons to flap around a replica green. Maybe he’d buy a load of London buses and make a mock-traffic jam outside a mock tube station. Who’s to say our Sheikh wouldn’t go so far as to open a replica of the old Walkabout venue to please all the replica Australians who’d flock to his replica Shepherd’s Bush in Oman? (Although he probably wouldn’t).

The possibilities contained in that headline are truly endless.

Verdict: But no. In reality, Sheikh Fahad Abdullah Al Araimi is not building a to-scale replica of Shepherd’s Bush, he’s merely replicating the Westfield shopping mall contained within Shepherd’s Bush. Seeing as all Westfield shopping malls look pretty much the same anyway, this isn’t nearly as exciting a story as the Independent’s headline made it seem. They could have just as easily said ‘Stratford City Replica to be Built in Oman’.

Not to hate on Westfield, that is. Centralising dozens of shopping chains into a single building owned by another chain certainly takes the guesswork out of modern day life, what with its online commerce and street markets and indie-hipster coffee shops. Having said that, the opening of a Westfield in Muscat hasn’t spurred us to book a trip to Oman in the same way a purpose built copy of the whole of Shepherd’s Bush would have.

To top it all off, while Sheikh Fahad Abdullah Al Araimi does own a house in west London, it’s in Knightsbridge, not Shepherd’s Bush.

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