National newspapers caught up in spread of false information online following Manchester bombing

The Daily Express and Daily Star websites published a “breaking” news story about a gunman at a Greater Manchester hospital that turned out to be false.

Both stories went live in the hours after a suicide bomb killed 22 people, including children, at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena last night.

The Express tweeted (pictured top): “Breaking: ‘Gunman’ outside Oldham hospital just moments after Manchester concert blast.”

The Star’s headline read: “Breaking: ‘Gunman’ reported at Oldham hospital moments after explosion”

The stories appeared to be based on a Facebook post by someone  who claimed to be locked inside the Royal Oldham Hospital. They said: “Do not come Oldham Hospital Im currently locked inside… man outside with gun [sic].”

In response to one Twitter user’s query about the reports, Oldham Council said: “We have no information to this effect at all. Please only trust or share official sources of information.”

Greater Manchester Police later debunked the gunman claim, tweeting: “Police have attended an incident @roh [Royal Oldham Hospital] Scene searched, no offences and all staff &patient’s are safe &well [sic].”

The hospital is understood to be on lockdown after being overwhelmed by the number of patients being admitted as a result of the incident in Manchester city centre.

The Express and Star websites, both of which owned by Northern & Shell Media Group, have since updated their stories. Neither has included any reference to their previous articles.

The Star’s new headline reads: “False reports of ‘gunman’ at Oldham Hospital spark PANIC after Manchester Arena attack.”

The Express changed its headline to: “Town council DENY reports of gunman outside Royal Oldham hospital after Manchester blast.”

The Daily Mail shared a collage of pictures with the faces of children said to be missing by their parents.

One Twitter user said two of those pictured were YouTubers and a third was the founder of website 4Chan, all of whom had been confirmed “not missing”.

One of those pictured is an American vlogger who runs The Report of The Week channel on the video-sharing platform.

He has since filmed a video confirming he is “alive, well and ok here in the United States” and denouncing the “rumours” as “an effort done by various trolls… to mislead the public with fake news”.

Another is understood to be a popular Manchester-based vlogger known as ProSyndicate, who this morning tweeted of the attack: “I never imagined anything so awful could happen in my hometown.. #Manchester.”

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