NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:
CLAIM: The FBI relied on the word of a cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, to determine that Russia hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee.
THE FACTS: Social media posts wrongly claim the FBI did not review evidence before concluding Russia breached the DNC’s computer system in 2016. The cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike “provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI,” the U.S.-owned company confirmed to The Associated Press in an email. The false claims circulated widely on Twitter and Facebook after the White House released a rough transcript of President Donald Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he asked Zelenskiy to investigate CrowdStrike. CrowdStrike first identified malware on the DNC’s server system, later tracing the hack to Russia. Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress in 2017 that agents never physically examined the DNC’s computers but CrowdStrike “ultimately shared with us their forensics from their review of the system.” That’s typical for such investigations, said Eugene H. Spafford, a professor of computer science at the Center for Education and Research in Information Security at Purdue University. Cybersecurity firms like CrowdStrike make copies of computer systems for law enforcement investigators to examine. “Just making a verified, hardware-level copy of all the bits, all the data that’s stored on the system is sufficient for almost all investigations that would have to be conducted,” said Spafford, who has assisted the FBI in cases. CrowdStrike has identified cyberattacks for the National Republican Congressional Committee and U.S. government.
CLAIM: Photo shows Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg with billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros.
THE FACTS: The photo was manipulated to include Soros. Social media users began circulating the manipulated image on Facebook and Twitter after Thunberg arrived in New York ahead of the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations. In the original photo, Thunberg is pictured with former Vice President Al Gore. Thunberg tweeted the original photo on Dec. 30, 2018. The 16-year-old activist spoke Monday at the 2019 U.N. climate summit where she delivered an emotional call to action and criticized world leaders for their inaction. Thunberg, who has become the voice of the youth global climate action movement, crossed the Atlantic in a solar-powered boat, traveling two weeks from Plymouth, England, to New York City, where she arrived Aug. 28. She began her protest movement by missing school to demonstrate outside of the Swedish parliament in 2018. Since then students around the world have followed her lead by hosting their own climate protests.
CLAIM: Photo shows park littered with debris after worldwide demonstrations to highlight climate change.
THE FACTS: The photo is real but shows the scene after a cannabis rally on April 20, in Hyde Park, London. Facebook and Twitter users shared the falsely captioned photo, which shows a grassy park filled with trash bags and overflowing garbage bins, after the Sept. 20 Global Climate Strike to raise awareness about climate change. “They protest for climate change and leave this mess behind,” some Facebook users wrongly claimed. Ashwin Bolar told The Associated Press in an email that he took the photo after the cannabis rally and posted it to the Facebook page of his employer, The Hemp Trading Company, a British clothing company. In his post, Bolar called on rally attendees to “do better” to clean up after themselves. He described it as “disappointing and deeply angering” that people have misrepresented the image, which was originally intended to encourage people to be “more environmentally conscious.”
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform. The video circulating widely on Facebook was captured earlier this year when a fire broke out in a four-story building in Surat, India, killing 19 students and injuring dozens more.
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