Rumors that a restaurant was shut down for serving human meat have been circulating online for years, occasionally flaring up again. A more recent version published by the web site news.states-tv.com claimed that one of the infamous restaurants was called “Rose Kitchen,” and was located in a hotel in Pretoria, South Africa:
A hotel restaurant in Pretoria, South Africa has been shuttered by authorities for serving human flesh. According to our local correspondent, suspicious residents told police of rumors that the restaurant was cooking human meat for customers. Police then raided the restaurant, where they discovered fresh human heads that were still bleeding. The blood was in the process of being drained into a plastic bag.
The restaurant, named Rose Kitchen, is a popular eating place in Sunnyside Pretoria.
In addition to the illegal meat, authorities discovered automatic weapons, grenades, and cell phones. Ten people were arrested in conjunction with the crimes. One resident said, “Every time I went to the market, I observed strange activities going on in the hotel. People who were never cleanly dressed and who looked a bit strange made their way in and out of the hotel, making me very suspicious of their activities. I am not surprised at the shocking revelation.”
A priest who ate at the restaurant was surprised when presented with a bill of 260 ZAR, or roughly $20. “The attendant noticed my reaction and told me it was the small piece of meat I had eaten that made the bill scale that high,” he said. “I did not know I had been served with human meat, and that it was that expensive.”
Last three years, Australian chef Marcus Volke murdered and cooked his girlfriend before killing himself. In Brazil, also last two years, a man and two women were arrested for murdering potential nannies and then cooking their flesh.
A near verbatim copy of this text was also published to the web site Meganews360, but according to that iteration, the restaurant was located in Valletta, Malta. According to yet another article, the restaurant was actually located in Nairobi, Kenya.
Although this text has made frequent appearances on disreputable web sites, these stories were all based on an errant and error-filled article published by BBC Swahili in May 2015. The BBC eventually removed the article, then released a statement saying that there was absolutely no truth to the story:
The story about the Nigerian restaurant which we published here was a mistake and we apologise. It was incorrect and published without the proper BBC checks. We have removed the story and have launched an urgent investigation into how this happened.
The BBC Swahili service’s reputation for accuracy and balance remains of paramount importance to us and we are taking the appropriate steps to insure that mistakes like this do not happen again.
It is likely that the BBC conflated a genuine report from 2013 about two skulls being discovered in a Nigerian hotel room, and a poorly sourced tabloid story about a restaurant serving human meat, which created a rumor that then took on a life of its own.
Despite the BBC’s retraction, uncorrected versions of this story were still available on web sites such as MSN and Express as of this writing. Disreputable web sites have also managed to keep this rumor in circulation by reposting the above-displayed text (occasionally changing the location) along with gruesome photographs of the alleged precooked cadavers:
Neither of these images show actual human meat; they are both props originally created to promote the zombie video game Resident Evil 6.
NPR listed a few tips to spotting fake news that I think we should all brush up on…
If a provocative headline drew your attention, read a little further before you decide to pass along the shocking information. Even in legitimate news stories, the headline doesn’t always tell the whole story. But fake news, particularly efforts to be satirical, can include several revealing signs in the text. That USA-Television.com story that we checked, headlined “Donald Trump signs a visa-free travel policy for South Africa,” went on to say that they had also revoked Australia’s rights to visit the country ever again. We have to assume that the many readers who were sharing the original article hadn’t actually read the full story.
Established news organizations usually own their domains and they have a standard look that you are probably familiar with. Sites with such endings like ‘com.co’ or sites that have numbers replace letters should make you raise your eyebrows and tip you off that you need to dig around more to see if they can be trusted. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos. For example, www.telegraph.com is a legitimate news source, but www.Te1egraph.com is not, despite its similar appearance.
Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, members of leadership, and the mission and ethics statement behind an organization. The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and seems overblown, you should be skeptical. Also, you should be able to find out more information about the organization’s leaders in places other than that site.
Or rather, look at the lack of quotes. Most publications have multiple sources in each story who are professionals and have expertise in the fields they talk about. If it’s a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes — and lots of them. Look for professors or other academics who can speak to the research they’ve done. And if they are talking about research, look up those studies.
Then, see who said the quotes, and what they said. Are they a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search? Say you’re looking at a story and it says President Obama said he wanted to take everyone’s guns away. And then there’s a quote. Obama is an official who has almost everything he says recorded and archived. There are transcripts for pretty much any address or speech he has given. Google those quotes. See what the speech was about, who he was addressing and when it happened. Even if he did an exclusive interview with a publication, that same quote will be referenced in other stories, saying he said it while talking to the original publication.
A lot of these fake and misleading stories are shared on social media platforms. Headlines are meant to get the reader’s attention, but they’re also supposed to accurately reflect what the story is about. Lately, that hasn’t been the case. Headlines often will be written in exaggerated language with the intention of being misleading and then attached to stories that are about a completely different topic or just not true. These stories usually generate a lot of comments on Facebook or Twitter. If a lot of these comments call out the article for being fake or misleading, it probably is.
A picture should be accurate in illustrating what the story is about. This often doesn’t happen. If people who write these fake news stories don’t even leave their homes or interview anyone for the stories, it’s unlikely they take their own pictures. Do a little detective work and reverse search for the image on Google. You can do this by right-clicking on the image and choosing to search Google for it. If the image is appearing on a lot of stories about many different topics, there’s a good chance it’s not actually an image of what it says it was on the first story.