March 22, 2016

Editor’s note: We’ve reached out to several journalists covering the attacks in Brussels and will include their stories as they come in. To keep up with journalists in Brussels, follow this Twitter list.

Samuel Laurent and his team are, by now, used to the hoaxes and rumors that flood the Internet after major terrorists attacks. They’re also used to covering the attacks themselves.

“We went through Charlie Hebdo and November 13th attacks,” said Laurent, who runs Les Décodeurs fact-checking and data viz team at France’s Le Monde, “so we are (sadly) quite used to these … and the hoaxes coming right after them.”

So Laurent’s team knew what to look for when explosions hit Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station in Brussels Tuesday morning. The terrorist attacks have left at least 30 dead and scores more wounded.

So far, Les Décodeurs has examined hoaxes including a few fake videos, he said. One was broadcast by a French news channel and shared on at least one news site. The videos are actually from a 2011 attack at a Moscow airport. There were also false reports about other attacks, he said.

“The new tendency seems to be jihadis trying to freak out people by publishing and sharing lots of false news and warning about false imminent attacks,” Laurent told Poynter via email.

The lessons he’s learned from covering the attacks in Paris are freshly relevant to covering Brussels, Laurent said: Slow down. Double-check. Don’t share anything you can’t verify.

At Le Monde, everyone is covering the attacks in Belgium. Laurent’s team is working on maps and finding hoaxes on social media. And today, they didn’t need any instructions on how to begin.

“What’s quite strange is the way this morning we quite naturally organized ourselves,” he said, “as if we were getting used to terrorist attacks.”

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

More News

Back to News