Some Mondays are tougher than others. Like the ones when you mistakenly announce a bunch of famous people’s death on the Internet.
French radio station RFI had to apologize Monday for accidentally publishing dozens of obits on its website for people who are still very much alive, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Brazilian footballer Pelé and Cuban president Raul Castro. The company said on Twitter the mistake was due to a “technical error.”
“We are working to fix this major bug and offer our apologies to those concerned and to our followers, who trust us,” RFI wrote in the same tweet.
It is common practice for big news agencies to prepare obits ahead of time for famous sports, entertainment and politics personalities, in order to have them ready when they die. But it goes without saying that those drafts – sometimes callously referred to in French as “viandes froides” (cold cuts) — are absolutely not meant to be seen by anyone outside of the newsroom before the person’s death is confirmed.
In this case, the RFI reporter who prepared the entry for Queen Elizabeth’s death wrote the draft assuming that the monarch would succumb to the novel coronavirus, as the United Kingdom has seen its new cases spike again in recent weeks.
“Infected by the virus, Queen Elizabeth, 93 years old [editor’s note: the Queen is 94], did not survive the pulmonary complications brought on by the disease,” read the story that was briefly up on RFI’s website, according to a screen grab tweeted by a reader. The obituaries were quickly deleted from the website, but still appeared in Google search results several hours later.
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This “major bug” caused a lot of hilarity on social media. While a few people seemed understanding, others just mocked the network ruthlessly for its mistake.
“RFI has decided to end 2020 with a bang.”
“In 2020, if you don’t have an RFI obit, you’ve wasted your life.”
Some also pointed out that former minister and Adidas owner Bernard Tapie seems to regularly cheat death. It is at least the third time a news outlet has mistakenly announced his death in recent months. Newspaper Le Monde published his obituary last fall, while TV network L’Équipe sent out a breaking news alert about his “death” last August.
With files from Agence France-Presse