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Old, misrepresented imagery shared amid Dutch farmer protests

July 6, 2022 GMT

As thousands of farmers in the Netherlands protest the government’s plans to slash emissions that livestock produce in their waste, old and out-of-context footage is circulating on social media with false claims that it shows the current demonstrations.

A video of a tank being returned to a warehouse is spreading on Twitter with false claims that it was purchased by protesters, while a post claiming to show a tractor convoy during the current protests actually contains a 2-year-old photo.

In addition, footage of a 2020 protest against pandemic restrictions in The Hague is circulating with false claims that it shows undercover police at a recent farmer protest.

Here’s a closer look at the facts.

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CLAIM: A video shows a tank purchased by Dutch farmers who will use it to block distribution centers.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The tank in the video wasn’t purchased by protesters. Instead, the video shows a vintage tank being returned to its owner’s warehouse after it was brought out to be featured at a museum.

THE FACTS: Protests across the Netherlands have ramped up this week, with angry farmers using trucks and tractors to block roads and supermarket distribution centers, The Associated Press has reported.

However, a video purportedly showing a tank purchased for this purpose is being misrepresented online. The video shows a tank with the number 34 emblazoned on its side, unloading from a truck and rolling down a street.

“So, uh.... Dutch farmers have purchased a tank to use to block distribution centres,” read a tweet with the video shared more than 13,000 times.

“Farmers in the #Netherlands have just purchased a British tank from Russian arms dealers – to use against Dutch police,” another tweet read.

Yet a closer look at the video shows the vehicle is actually a restored vintage tank that was scheduled to appear at a museum exhibition earlier this year.

The numbers printed on the tank in the video match those of a restored WWII Sherman Firefly tank that was featured in an advertisement for a June 2022 “Tankfest” event held by the Tank Museum in Bovington, U.K.

An online document showing “Surviving Sherman Firefly tanks” also features a photo of the tank, explaining it was built in 1943 and is located in the Netherlands. The document identifies the owner of the tank as “Classic MV’s.”

A Facebook page for Classic MV’s, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has posted several photos and videos of the tank in recent months. The footage includes the same background as is featured in the tweet, as well as showing the tank loaded on the same loading truck.

Classic MV’s explained in a June 29 Facebook post that the tank did not make it to its scheduled exhibition “due to issues with customs/export papers etc.” Instead, the owner wrote, they participated in an event nearby.

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CLAIM: A photo of tractors filling a roadway as far back as the eye can see was captured during the Dutch farmer protests in 2022.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. This photo is old. While it does show Dutch farmers protesting government moves to rein in nitrogen and carbon emissions, it was captured in 2019, not 2022.

THE FACTS: A photo of a long roadway filled with colorful tractors and flanked by green pastures amassed more than 23,000 retweets this week when a Twitter post implied the photo was recent.

“My country is in revolt because the government took the livelihoods of thousands of farmers, and it’s going remarkably under reported in the mainstream media,” a caption on the tweet read.

It’s true that Dutch farmers in recent weeks have protested government moves that will likely force them to cut their livestock herds or even stop work, but this image does not show the recent protests.

Instead, a reverse-image search shows that it first appeared online in October 2019. Dutch photographer Jasper Nijland, who posted the photo to his Instagram account at the time, told the AP that he shot the photo “in October 2019 during the biggest farm protest at the time.”

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CLAIM: Video shows undercover police attempting to infiltrate recent protests by Dutch farmers.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The video dates to 2020 and shows a protest against COVID-19 measures.

THE FACTS: In the misrepresented video segment, demonstrators shout and throw things at a small group of people carrying clubs, some of whom are wearing face masks. The crowd pushes this smaller group against a van marked “politie,” police in Dutch, forcing them to retreat inside. A protester can be seen waving a Netherlands flag in the background.

A Twitter post with more than 35,000 likes that shared the 39-second video reads, “Undercover police tried to infiltrate the Dutch farmers protest but they got caught”

But a minutelong version of the video was tweeted in 2020. The caption in that version explains that the police unit shown being attacked in the video is the AE, or Aanhoudingseenheid, the arrest unit. The tweet and video were posted by a user named Bob van Keulen on August 20, 2020. Van Keulen confirmed the information for the AP but declined further comment.

Anotherversion of the clip taken from a different angle was posted on the same day by Sander Knura, who was a crime reporter on assignment for regional news broadcaster Omroep West. Knura told the AP in an email the video was taken at Hofvijver, a small lake across from the Dutch parliament in The Hague.

Esther Straathof, a spokesperson with the local authorities, also confirmed that the video was from a protest in 2020 against COVID-19 measures. The Aanhoudingseenheid are usually dressed as civilians and were walking among the protesters, Straathof said in an email.

Reporting on the same day from The NL Times, an English-language news outlet in the Netherlands, described the protesters chanting slogans opposed to COVID-19 restrictions, such as “down with the emergency law.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.