Over the weekend, Sputnik France's photo of the Notre Dame blaze made its way into 'Fake or for Real', The Guardian's Instagram story series about what's true and what's false in today's media reports.
The photo of the burning cathedral, taken from a distance, also shows two men smiling in the forefront − and that's pretty much it. The image first emerged during Sputnik France's live web coverage of the Notre Dame incident and was first published on SF's social media and the website without a company logo or a watermark.
The picture fast spread on to the social media, with some bloggers assuming that the two were Muslims and some right-wing activists going on to claim that 'Muslims were celebrating the tragedy'.
The controversy then made its way to PolitiFact, a US-based fact-checking project, who claimed, citing forensic experts from the University of Colorado Denver, that the two men in question had been inserted in the photo, apparently in a bid to push forward an Islamophobic narrative.
While Sputnik France commented on the grievous allegations and the website's chief editor Natalia Novikova calling for responsibility in journalism, the outlet has also put the original photo on a cloud storage where the metadata indicating when and how the pictures were made can be accessed after downloading the image (click here to access).
Several news outlets and fact-checkers have since updated their stories. However, at the time of the publication, the Guardian has not issued any corrections.