The old adage that all publicity is good publicity was put to the test this week after a New South Wales cannabis company was caught up in a fake news storm involving the Taliban.
The problems started when a report by Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News wrongly stated Cpharm Australia had agreed with the ruling Taliban to bankroll a A$450 million cannabis processing plant in the country.
It said Cpharm staff had met with counter-narcotic officials to discuss producing medicines and creams at the factory. Medicinal use is legal in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the report was picked up by a number of media outlets around the world who duly spread the “news”.
Cpharm is a small Maitland business with 17 staff which provides medical advice about pharmaceutical products. It is not a manufacturer, doesn’t have a spare $450 million and, perhaps unsurprisingly, has ever spoken to the Taliban.
Chief financial officer Tony Gabites told Reuters: “We’re just trying to work out what we’re going to do to stop it. We’ve had probably 40 or 50 calls today. It’s just out of control and it’s just all lies, media guys… not doing any due diligence on what they want to publish.”
Gabites added he suspected the reports stemmed from a tweet from a Taliban-linked account which named a company called Cpharm, referring to another firm elsewhere in the world with a similar name.
The company said it was considering legal action, but expects the storm to blow over quickly. “Most of the companies we deal with would look at that article and laugh,” Gabites said.