A mistranslated word led to the New York Times publishing fake news


Donald Trump’s campaign against a number of mainstream news publications – like the New York Times and CNN – soldiers on.

In his latest tweet, he lambastes the latter for what he deems to be inaccurate polls:

Is there any truth to the claims?

Well no, not really.

However over 100 years ago, a simple translation error led the New York Times to publish several articles celebrating the possibility of life on the planet Mars.

For a brief period in the late 1800s several news outlets reported as fact the existence of “canals” on the surface of Mars, and took that as truth that somebody – Martians – had built them.

Except there weren't any canals at all.

In 1877 Giovanni Schiaparelli, an Italian astronomer observing Mars, said that he saw channels on the surface of the planet. He used the word “canali” to do so, which was mistranslated in English to mean “canals”.

Founder of the Lowell observatory Percival Lowell accepted this, and claimed that not only were said canals real, they proved the presence of aliens.

The New York Times ran with this story, running a number of articles on it in the 1920s.

HT Fivethirtyeight

More: 'Fake news' was around before Donald Trump was even born

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