( AFP / RICH PEDRONCELLI)

Fake BBC News tweet claims 'Unabomber' to receive pardon

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

An image circulating on Facebook and Instagram purports to show a BBC News tweet reporting that US President Joe Biden has granted a pardon to Ted Kaczynski, the US hermit-mathematician known as the Unabomber who was sentenced to life behind bars for sending fatal letter bombs. The claim is false: the image was taken from a BBC parody account and has been digitally altered.

The image was shared here on July 17 by an Instagram account with more than 10,000 followers.

"Joe Biden grants federal pardon to Ted Kaczynski. Authorities expect the controversial mathematics professor to be released from prison in the next few hours", the text reads, alongside the BBC News logo and handle @BBCNews.

Screenshot of misleading post taken on July 19, 2021

A photo shows Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, who terrorised the United States with a series of bombs planted between 1978 and 1995 that killed three people and injured dozens of others.

Before Kaczynski became one of America’s most wanted domestic terrorists he attained an assistant professorship in mathematics at UC Berkeley and was on track to tenure,  the New York Times reported

While some Instagram users pointed out the tweet was fake, others appear to have been misled.

"wtf was Joe a libertarian plant this entire time," one person commented.

The image has also been shared on social media here and here

However, the image does not show a genuine BBC News tweet.

The tweet was originally posted by a BBC News parody account on July 11, 2021.

A screenshot of the tweet made by the BBC parody account, taken July 19, 2021.

An advanced search of the genuine BBC News Twitter timeline showed no results for keywords “Ted Kaczynski” or “mathematics professor”. 

A search of an archived version of the BBC News Twitter timeline from July 13 also showed no results for the tweet featured in the image posted on social media. 

Moreover, in the misleading image, the handle of the parody account, "BBCNewsButGayer", has been edited to read "BBCNews".

An image comparison showing the image posted to Instagram (L) and the original tweet from a BBC parody account (R).

The photo of Kaczynski featured in the satirical tweet was taken by Montana University student Bruce Ely in 1996. See other photos from the series here

The BBC also confirmed that the tweet was not authentic.

"I can confirm this is a fake tweet," a BBC spokesperson told AFP.

By July 21, 2021, no news reports had documented the purported release of the Unabomber. Kacynzski, America's once most feared domestic terrorist is serving multiple lifetime prison sentences with no chance of parole. 

UPDATE: This article was updated on July 22, 2021 to add a BBC spokesperson's comment