Websites including the Daily Mirror and Metro in the UK and the New York Daily News in the US duly published the story, alongside an image showing the teacher posing poolside in her bikini. “Teacher suspended after sex session with teen pupil ends up on hardcore porn website,” read the Mirror’s headline. The Daily Mail – the most successful English-language newspaper website in the world – even went so far as to claim that there would be a criminal investigation, and that this wasn’t the first time that the teacher in question had sexual relations with a student.
There was just one problem: It wasn’t true.
So how did this fake story make the leap from South America to the English-language press? The answer is tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo of the woman in her bikini: a credit labelled “CEN”.
Central European News (CEN) and its sister outfit EuroPics are small news agencies, largely unknown outside certain sections of the media, whose headquarters are in Canterbury in the UK (although they claim to have 35 staff based in offices across central and eastern Europe). In recent years, CEN has become one of the Western media’s primary sources of tantalising and attention-grabbing stories. They’re often bizarre, salacious, gruesome, or ideally all three: If you’ve read a story about someone in a strange country cutting off their own penis, the chances are it came from CEN.
The full crazy story here. The same conditions that reward viral news like much of what's on Buzzfeed also work on behalf of CEN. So it's some poetic justice that Buzzfeed did the legwork on debunking so many of CEN's stories. It reminds me of those movies like Blackhat in which the government has to release a hacker from prison to chase down other hackers, or a thief to catch a thief.
At the bottom of the piece, Buzzfeed publishes a list of stories they previously sourced from CEN. It's an amusing collection of headlines.