British news websites sparked panic Friday night with a splash of false reporting and exaggerated headlines when the Oxford Circus underground was placed on lockdown. Shoppers and commuters reportedly “heard shots” and ran for cover.
Armed police descended on the scene and reporters rushed to find out what was happening. But many of Britain’s national papers jumped to conclusions before getting their facts straight.
#oxfordstreet There is a lorry stopped on the pavement in Oxford street, police all around it and blood on the floor, it’s definitely the aftermath of something maybe just a crash but nothing on the news… Anyone have a clue?
— Dan Smallbone (@DanSmallbone) November 14, 2017
Mail Online reporters told their millions of readers in the UK and abroad there was a van which had mounted the pavement with blood all around it. Witnesses, the Mail Online claimed, described a lorry on the pavement “as if it had ploughed into pedestrians.” They quoted a man named Dan Smallbone who shared what he saw.
He said: “#oxfordstreet There is a lorry stopped on the pavement in Oxford street, police all around it and blood on the floor, it’s definitely the aftermath of something maybe just a crash but nothing on the news… Anyone have a clue?”
If the Daily Mail had checked the Tweet properly, they would have noticed it was written ten days ago, on November 14.
What Smallbone was referencing was actually the scene after a window cleaner fell onto the pavement, seriously injuring himself. At no point did he use the word “ploughed” – despite it being in the Mail, and in quotation marks.
After a considerable period and a wave of angry tweets from journalists, the post was removed from their site.
Barrister Mark Ablett was one of the many outraged Tweeters who spotted the mistake. He wrote: “Daily Mail tweeting about lorry ploughed into people at Oxford Circus, then delete it when it turns out to be unfounded. Talk about unhelpfully spreading rumours… And this, from one of our biggest newspapers!”
The Daily Express also reported that a “gunman opens fire,” before amending copy after police confirmed there were in fact no shots fired, according to initial assessments and evidence.
Thankfully, some news outlets stuck to the facts.
The Daily Mirror reported: “Oxford Circus station evacuated as armed cops ‘called to reports of incident.’”
It is still not clear what happened exactly, but police say there is no evidence of gunshots and no reports of casualties.
Transport for London (TfL) has now confirmed Oxford Street and Bond Street stations have reopened, while police are investigating.