Just because a story goes viral, doesn’t make it true. That once again became all too clear with a recent viral story that claimed asylum seekers in a Toronto hotel were slaughtering goats.
The claim – fueled by Toronto Sun writer Sue Ann Levy in an article on October 3rd – was busted today by BuzzFeed News who discovered it to be untrue.
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Over the last few months, people seeking asylum in Toronto, Canada, have been temporarily placed in Toronto hotels until permanent housing becomes available. The Radisson Hotel Toronto East, one of the hotels involved, received negative TripAdvisor reviews. BuzzFeed News reported that many of these claims were discovered to be false and were written by anti-Muslim and far-right individuals who hadn’t even stayed at the hotel.
While negative reviews on TripAdvisor are generally left to be discovered by those who come across the hotel page, these false claims were published in an article titled, “Irregular Migrants Continue to Flock Into Toronto,” in the Toronto Sun October 3.
In the article, author Sue-Ann Levy wrote, “There are also 1,719 irregular (illegal) migrants/refugees/asylum seekers in Toronto hotels, including 577 housed at the Radisson Toronto East hotel in 146 rooms (the hotel has 240 rooms in total).”
And the goat-slaughtering claim? Levy found this in one of the reviews, stating: “On Tuesday, one visitor from Virginia —calling the three-star hotel a “disgrace” —claimed that animal services needed to be called on the second night he was there because ‘some goats were being slaughtered’ in the public bathrooms. The visitor said gunfire was also heard outside the hotel that same night.”
Hotel management told BuzzFeed News that many of the TripAdvisor reviews were not true, especially that one.
“Radisson Hotel Toronto East can confirm that the claims of goats being slaughtered in the public bathrooms are completely false statements,” spokesperson Laura Langemo told BuzzFeed News.
TripAdvisor has since shut down the comments section on the Radisson Hotel Toronto East page due to the influx of false reviews.
Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. The article went viral, receiving more than 13,000 shares, comments, and reactions on Facebook. It was also tweeted by Amy Mekelburg, a prominent anti-Muslim influencer, and Faith Goldy, a white nationalist YouTuber. Buzzfeed also reported that Levy’s story was picked up or cited by far-right and anti-Muslim websites like Infowars, Bare Naked Islam, YourNewsWire, and Mad World News. The goat slaughtering claim was especially focused on by many of these outlets and on social media.
This isn’t the first time that the Radisson Hotel Toronto East has been targeted by far-right and anti-Muslim figures for housing asylum-seekers. In September, far-right Youtubers, including Ronny Cameron, visited the hotel to point out damages like stains and questioned and harassed supposed asylum seekers about their nationality, and also filmed people without their consent.
Though the TripAdvisor comments have been suspended, the Google comments have not. In the last few days, “reviewers” have eerily echoed Levy’s article calling the Radisson Hotel Toronto East a “refugee camp” and making claims of people urinating in the lobby and harassing women.
Neither the Toronto Sun nor Levy responded to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment by the time the article was published, though Levy claims on Twitter she didn’t have enough time to comment.
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