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: Photo of a massive, cyclone-like cloud shows Hurricane Dorian headed to Florida.
THE FACTS: The image is a digital artwork that was shared widely on social media as Hurricane Dorian made its way toward the U.S. In some posts, the image was shared with a false caption saying it showed Dorian over the Bahamas coming to Florida. The storm artwork was created by Brent Shavnore and published on his Instagram account on April 12, well before the hurricane had formed. Shavnore confirmed in an email to the AP that the image was digitally created. He said he gives YouTube tutorials to teach people how to make digital art similar to his.
CLAIM: Hillary Clinton said in a Sept. 1 tweet that, “Hurricane Dorian has already devastated the Bahamas and is about to devastate the Great State of Florida. Please help us help the victims by giving a huge donation to Clinton Foundation Today. We rebuilt Haiti and we’ll rebuild Nassau and Orlando.”
THE FACTS: The tweet shared on social media that appears to show Clinton soliciting donations for the victims of Hurricane Dorian is not real. That message was not tweeted by her or from her account. The false tweet was shared as a screenshot in posts on social media. As of Friday, Clinton had sent only one tweet about Hurricane Dorian. That tweet on Aug. 30 read, “Stay safe, Florida. If you haven’t already, make sure to check off these emergency preparedness steps,” and included a link to hurricane readiness tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, confirmed in an email to the AP that she did not send the tweet.
CLAIM: Video shows a South African mall ablaze, with people leaping from the building amid civil unrest in the country.
THE FACTS: The video, viewed widely on Facebook, was altered to suggest it was taken in South Africa. In the video, a narrator says: “This is a shopping mall that has been set on fire,” as the words “South Africa” scroll across the screen. However, the video was actually taken on May 24, in Surat, India, when a fire broke out in a four-story tutoring center, killing 19 students and injuring dozens more. The AP covered that fire, and images from the time match the multi-level storefront building in the video. In addition, numerous videos with scenes from the Indian fire can be found online. In the last few days, there has been a rise in looting and arson attacks against foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg and South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
CLAIM: A photo showing a hospital room in disarray, with blood pooled on the floor, was taken following the recent mass shooting in Odessa, Texas.
THE FACTS: The photo was not taken after the Texas shooting. It was taken in 2018 by a Temple University medical student and was included with an essay that ran in The New York Times in February. The photo was shared with a false caption on Facebook after a gunman went on a rampage in West Texas, leaving seven people dead and about two dozen injured. The photo was taken at Temple University Hospital on Sept. 11, 2018, by Eric Curran, now a fourth-year medical student at the university. Curran told the AP in an email that the photo shows the hospital room after staff treated a victim of gun violence. The New York Times ran the photo with a personal essay by Curran recounting how hospital staff worked to treat victims of gun violence. “The trauma bay in the emergency department at Temple University after resuscitation efforts failed,” the caption of the photo in the Times read.
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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