Fake headline claims US set to criminalize questioning 9/11 attacks

  • Published on May 2, 2024 at 16:47
  • Updated on May 6, 2024 at 14:51
  • 3 min read
  • By Daniel GALGANO, AFP USA
An image circulating on social media appears to show a New York Post article on a bill set for a vote in the US Congress that would make it illegal to question the events surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks. This is false; Congress is not currently considering such legislation and the newspaper said it never ran the story. 

"CONGRESS TO VOTE ON BILL THAT WOULD CRIMINALIZE QUESTIONING THE EVENTS SURROUNDING 9/11," is the headline of what appears to be a screenshot of a New York Post article shared April 27, 2024 on X.

"With strong support from AIPAC and the ADL, Congress is set to vote on a bill that would criminalize any questioning of the events that took place during the September 11th attacks," the apparent text of the article goes on to say, referencing a pro-Israel political lobby group and a Jewish civil rights organization.

Screenshot from X taken May 1, 2024

The same image spread on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Truth Social and elsewhere on X.

The posts claim that the legislation would impose a $10,000 fine and five years of jail time for any person who "questions or challenges the official narrative" of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Nineteen jihadists, most of them Saudis, hijacked four planes on September 11, 2001. The task of identifying the 2,753 who died when an Al-Qaeda commando crashed two civilian airliners into New York's twin towers is ongoing. One plane hit a portion of the Pentagon near Washington and the other crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

Despite a full federal inquiry (archived here) and ample evidence about the attacks, conspiracy theorists have continued to spread false claims, including that the government had a role in orchestrating the deadliest assault in US history.

Despite this, Congress is not considering any legislation that would penalize discussion of such conspiracies.

A search using the US Congress's online database shows the House of Representatives and the Senate are currently considering 12 pieces of proposed legislation that mention the September 11, 2001 attacks during the 2023-2024 session as of May 1, 2024 (archived here). They include a move to expand eligibility to programs that support the health of first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center collapse and one to offer funds for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum (archived here and here).

None of the bills or resolutions mention punishing those who question the consensus around the attacks.

An Anti-Defamation League spokesperson said the posts were "a complete fraud" and that the organization has never supported a law that would fine or jail people for questioning the September 11 attacks. A spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee similarly denied the organization had ever supported such a bill. 

Altered image

Iva Benson, spokesperson for the New York Post, said the image circulating on social media is "clearly fake" and that the article "didn't run in the Post." 

In an April 30, 2024 email, Benson also said the bylines in the image come from an unrelated article published on the same day.

The same four authors are listed on a story (archived here) published online on the same day and time, but reporting on a New York court overturning disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's 2020 sex crime conviction.

Stylistic and formatting differences also point to the image as inauthentic. 

In the imposter article, the headline is written in all capital letters, the font does not match that used by the New York Post online and it lacks red-colored hyperlinks commonly found in NYPost.com articles.

Screenshot from the New York Post mobile website taken May 1, 2024 alongside a screenshot taken from X with elements outlined by AFP

Additionally, none of the social media posts sharing the image include a link to read the full article.

AFP has debunked other posts impersonating well-known media brands and news organizations in the United States, Britain and Canada. 

The lead and seventh paragraph of this article were updated.
May 6, 2024 The lead and seventh paragraph of this article were updated.

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