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Altered photo adds ‘Soros’ label to buses in posts alleging antifa-organized unrest

June 2, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows two buses emblazoned with “Soros Riot Dance Squad” at a Milan, Michigan, gas station, offering proof that billionaire philanthropist George Soros and far-left militant groups are transporting out-of-town rioters to protests.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A photo of two unmarked buses was manipulated to add the words “Soros Riot Dance Squad” to the side of each vehicle. The buses are not being used to transport people to protests; they belong to a local transportation company and are providing a local shuttle service.

THE FACTS: On Tuesday, a photo said to show two “Soros Riot Dance Squad” buses passing through a gas station in a small town near Ann Arbor, Michigan, was circulating widely on social media.

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Posts and articles claimed the image was proof that Soros, a Democratic donor, and anti-fascist networks were transporting militant rioters to protests from out of town.

“Democrats & George Soros are Paying & Busing In White Antifa to Come Into the Communities To Incite Violence & Destruction so that The Focus isn’t on Peaceful Protest & Justice For George Floyd,” one tweet using the photo said.

“It’s official, the riots are staged,” read the headline of an article about the photo on Intellihub, a website that has frequently spread false conspiracy theories.

By Tuesday afternoon, thousands had shared the post on Facebook and Twitter.

But a call to a local transportation company that owns buses like the ones in the photo revealed the image was not what it seemed.

Sean Duval, the owner of Golden Limousine International, confirmed the buses belong to his company, but they don’t have any writing on them.

Duval also provided evidence the photo was altered -- a Facebook user who appeared to be from Milan, Michigan, on Friday posted the original version of the gas station photo, which showed they were plain white buses.

The buses pictured have a contract for a daily shuttle service to Romulus, Michigan, and were not transporting rioters to any protest, Duval said.

Rumors about organized networks of out-of-town anti-fascist rioters descending on cities nationwide have swirled across social media in recent days as citizens continue to protest the death of George Floyd. There is no evidence that Soros or others are organizing such networks.

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“It’s frustrating when people from the outside start instigating and try to turn American against American,” Duval said. “It is so important to not let these guys win.”

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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.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536