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Photo shows Moscow in 1991, not recent Vienna lockdown protests

November 22, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows anti-lockdown protests in Vienna in November 2021.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo, taken by The Associated Press on March 10, 1991, shows hundreds of thousands of protesters in Moscow’s Manezh Square demanding the resignation of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

THE FACTS: Last weekend, tens of thousands of protesters marched in Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown beginning Monday.

Multiple social media users shared a 30-year-old photo of a protest in Moscow to falsely claim that it showed the recent protests in Vienna.

“This is the demo in#Vienna against forced vax in#Austria. Since you didn’t see it on the news tonight, are you happy that the#MSM so blatantly refuse to let you see the truth & make up your own mind?” read a false post on Twitter that also shared the photo.

For years, the photo has been circulating online with false captions, including posts incorrectly suggesting the photo shows a 1991 Metallica concert in Moscow.

Photographer Dominique Mollard took the photo in 1991 for the AP. The photo’s caption states that protesters packed Manezh Square, next to the Kremlin, “demanding the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his fellow Communists give up power.”

The caption states the crowd was estimated at 500,000, “the biggest anti-government demonstration in the 73 years since the Communists took power.”

The version of the AP photo in the posts is one that was edited to duplicate a part of the crowd – a change made to address a flaw that had discolored a small part of the original image. That version was later deleted from AP’s archives, because this type of image alteration does not meet AP’s standards for accuracy. The original photo is still in AP’s archives.

Austria’s lockdown will last at least 10 days but could go up to 20, the AP reported. The government also will make vaccinations mandatory starting Feb. 1. Not quite 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.

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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.