Pat Kenny used in fake ads for erectile dysfunction drugs
Newstalk presenter laughs off 'ridiculous' adverts but will take legal action if they continue
Newstalk presenter Pat Kenny is seeking legal advice after a fake news story and doctored photographs of the star with a black eye appeared online claiming that he had been arrested and escorted off the Newstalk premises.
The broadcaster told the Sunday Independent that the material was brought to his attention by a concerned member of the public.
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The current affairs host said that he has also become the victim of fake advertisements showing a picture of him recommending erectile dysfunction drugs and muscle enhancers.
He said the advertisements appeared on a prominent news website, as well as Facebook and Google.
"I was on a news website one morning and a picture of me advertising drugs for erectile dysfunction popped up. I just thought 'This is ridiculous. There will be people who believe all of this'," he told the Sunday Independent.
Speaking to listeners of his Newstalk radio show shortly before 10am last Thursday morning, he said: "We have been in touch with social media giants about the presence of these ads because clearly, if they are on Google or Facebook, somebody is making money out of them and doing so under false pretences and I just thought to let everyone out there know that if you see me advertising hair colour, erectile dysfunction materials, muscle enhancers or any such thing, it's not me. It's a scam of some sort. So don't buy with my imagined recommendation."
When contacted by the newspaper, Mr Kenny said: "I'm not on social media but I do know an awful lot of cr*p goes around and I tend to just ignore it. But as Noel [Kelly my agent] quite rightly pointed out, social media giants have a responsibility to ensure our names are not being used in ways that are misinforming people and allowing them to be scammed."
He said the fake news story "showed me with a black eye and the pictures had obviously been doctored. The story said I had been arrested in Newstalk and escorted from the building.
"Then there were ads which came in [to Newstalk] which showed me supposedly advertising erectile function products and muscle enhancers. I got on to Noel and he told me Ryan and Claire Byrne and obviously Miriam very publicly have the very same problem and he said that something needs to be done about this. So my solicitor has written to Facebook and Google to ask them to deal with this."
Mr Kenny is the latest Irish star to become a victim of fake news. This comes in the same week that OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research group co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk, demonstrated how a piece of software can produce authentic-looking fake news articles after being given just a few pieces of information.
The potential for software to be able to create nearly instant fake news articles comes as concerns rise globally over technology's role in the spread of disinformation.
European regulators have threatened action if tech firms don't do more to deal with the problem.
Mr Kenny said: "It is serious and needs to be dealt with but at the same time I'm taking it light heartedly. I laughed [when I saw the erectile dysfunction ads]. It amused me. What else can you do but laugh?"
He said that for the moment: "I am not suing Facebook or Google. Life is too short for that. I just want it dealt with. But if this is going to persist and Facebook and Google don't take action then I'm going to have to review that decision."
He said: "It's a phishing exercise to get people to sign up to something initially for free and then they are trapped and the money starts coming out of their bank account.
"Most people are internet savvy and will understand that it's not real, but there are some vulnerable people out there and they should be warned."
The Sunday Independent contacted Facebook and Google for comment but neither had responded at the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, Facebook has provided Irish users with tips on how to spot fake news.
These include: checking the article's date and website address and making sure the article isn't satire; unusual formatting; considering the photos and looking to see if other reports back up the article.
The social media giant warned: "If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it's more likely to be true."
Earlier this month, Miriam O'Callaghan said she took the decision to sue Facebook when her distressed 12-year-old son thought she was fired after reading a fake web post. The RTE host has launched legal action against the social media giant for defamation over a number of bogus articles which used her name and picture to promote beauty products.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny described how easy it was for people to believe fake news: "The satirical site Waterford Whispers ran a story a couple of years back that said a drunken me had violently attempted to access The Late Late Show, and was escorted off the premises.
"I thought it was funny at the time, but lo and behold, an eminent barrister, while chatting with my brother, indicated that she had believed it! Go figure."