Fake news about Ugandan man's mosquito-killing farts fools world media

"Man's farts so deadly he kills mosquitoes in a 6m radius" is a headline difficult to resist clicking on.

Unfortunately, it's false.

The attention-grabbing headline ran on news sites worldwide this week, including BBC News and Aotearoa's own New Zealand Herald, despite appearing to originate on a fake news site based in Africa. 

According to the report, 48-year-old Ugandan man Joe Rwamirama's flatulence protects anyone near him from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and he's being paid "millions" to turn it into an insect repellent.

"Imagine buying a Raid can with my face on it," he's claimed to have said. 

It wasn't difficult for Newshub to ascertain the story is fake. Using Google's search tools, we were able to determine it first appeared on ihlayanews.com on December 9. Ihlaya News' own Facebook page declares it is a "news parody and satire website".

Ihlaya News' original fake report.
Ihlaya News' original fake report. Photo credit: Ihlaya News

"We do all we can to make sure the articles are complete fiction," its banner image states. At the top of its website are the words "nuusparodie waarvan jy hou" - Afrikaans for "news parody that you like".

Ihlaya News' Facebook disclaimer.
Ihlaya News' Facebook disclaimer. Photo credit: Ihlaya News/Facebook

From Ihlaya News the story appears to have been picked up by entertainment sites based in Africa, before making its way to the UK via tabloid The Sun, which has a history of fabricating news. 

The Sun fleshed out the tale, upping the range of Rwamirama's superpowered farts from six metres to six miles, and claiming to have spoken to a local barber who knows Rwamirama - but admitted none of the claims could be verified. 

Once it hit the UK tabloids, the story was run by the BBC's Somali news service and others, including the New Zealand Herald, each outlet admitting none of the details could be verified. The Herald claimed the farts had a 10km radius - even bigger than The Sun's six miles.

Apple News/Newshub.
The NZ Herald's headline as it appeared on Apple News. Photo credit: Apple News/Newshub.

As for the photo used on each of the stories, that's actually a man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo being checked for ebola, according to a Sky News report in July. The photo was taken by Reuters in June.

Sky News' report from July, revealing Joe is actually a Congo man who was checked for ebola.
Sky News' report from July, revealing Joe is actually a Congo man who was checked for ebola. Photo credit: Sky News/Reuters

Fact-checking website Snopes has twice had to bust fake news that originated on Ihlaya News - in November for reporting that bee stings can make your penis bigger, and last week that male birth control was causing men's testicles to explode.