VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Report on three students’ rape-slay of student teacher NOT TRUE, MISLEADS with unrelated photos

A fabricated article that revives a three-year-old rape-slay report is making the rounds on social media, using in its thumbnail photos of innocent netizens and unrelated events.

Website randomnames.club, created just last September, published the fake news report with the headline, “GMA NEWS:Graduating na Student Teacher Pinatay at Ginahasa ng 3 nitong Estudyante (GMA NEWS: Graduating student-teacher killed and raped by her three students).” The undated story carries a spurious timestamp, which reads “Published Today” but does not change despite the passage of time.

When opened, embedded in the story is actually a Jan. 18, 2017 Unang Hirit video report about the rape and murder of a senior college student in Isabela province. It did not indicate that the perpetrators of the crime were students of the woman. Randomnames.club’s copy also stops playing after four seconds and invites readers to first share the story before it continues to play.

As seen on Facebook (FB), the report is even more factitious. The untrue report is shown with a thumbnail that misleadingly splices together five images that have nothing to do with the report:

  • a photo of a uniform-wearing University of the East student, who has a significant amount of following on social media, grabbed from the student’s Feb. 19 tweet;
  • a photo of actress Bianca King in a bikini with her back facing the camera, now-deleted on Instagram but can be found in a May 2017 story by ABS-CBN News;
  • an image of three men with their heads bowed down grabbed from a February 2018 ABS-CBN News report, who are the suspects in the gang rape of a 19-year-old woman in Caloocan City; and
  • a screengrab of a June 2014 24 Oras report showing CCTV footage of two individuals supposedly dragging into a corridor the body of Guillo Servando, a De La Salle University student who died after being hazed as part of initiation rites of a fraternity.

The last photo, which seems to show in greyscale a body covered by a blanket inside a bathroom, with an inset showing a man and a woman having intercourse, was not shown in any part of the original GMA News report.

The UE student, whose photo was the largest in the collage, has also debunked randomnames.club’s report in a Feb. 26 FB post, saying it is “absolutely fake.” She also announced in a separate post that she has filed a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation, asking the agency to “track down the person behind” the deceptive online content.

Additionally, randomnames.club’s interface is also telling of the website’s credibility as a source of information.

Its Home page leads to an error page, while its About Us page merely contains a vague and general one-sentence description of what the site is supposedly for: “a social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.”

The site even has a Privacy Policy tab. However, it bears nothing but a definition of text placeholder Lorem Ipsum.

Its Contact Us page shows not the contact details of the site’s administrators, but links to a downloadable website script, an Imgur post of what seems to be an unspecified website’s traffic report, and a page which monitors a website’s visitors.

It is also worth noting how the name of the website, displayed at the topmost part of the page, changes in every tab. Two of them even used the legitimate name and logo of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Lastly, the webpage is also filled with advertisements -- with the ads taking up more space than the actual report. This is a common profit-making technique employed by online hoax makers.

Social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle shows that randomnames.club’s misleading report could have reached over a million social media users. It already got more than 200 interactions on Facebook -- excluding shares and reactions from private netizens. Its top traffic generators are FB page Pakboi Videos and public FB groups LET Review (PRC- Board Exam Reviewer for Teachers) and LET-OnlineReviewer.PH(March 2020).

Randomnames.club was created on Sept. 19, 2019.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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