Rumor Rundown: COVID-19 scare tactics, Middle East misinfo and more
This week’s selection of viral rumors plays on people’s fears and exploits partisan beliefs.
NO: The woman in the background in this video of a vaccination clinic in Mexico did not die after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. YES: She fainted.
Tip: Be wary of posts that seek to connect isolated incidents with COVID-19 vaccines. Anti-vaccination activists continue to use coincidental events, including celebrity deaths, and misleading or out-of-context videos to spread fear and falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines.
- “Facebook races to remove anti-vaccine profile picture frames” (Lauren Feiner, CNBC).
- “Just 12 People Are Behind Most Vaccine Hoaxes On Social Media, Research Shows” (Shannon Bond, NPR’s All Things Considered).
- “Distancing from the vaccinated: Viral anti-vaccine infertility misinfo reaches new extremes” (April Glaser and Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News).
NO: The video in this tweet does not show Hamas militants firing rockets from populated areas in the Gaza Strip in May 2021. YES: This video has been online since at least June 2018 and was claimed to be related to the conflict in Syria. YES: The above tweet was posted by Ofir Gendelman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson. YES: It has since been deleted.
Note: This video was also used out of context in a December 2019 tweet that claimed it was footage from Tripoli, Libya.
Tip: Photos and videos of rockets being fired, particularly at night, are easy to pass off out of context.
NO: This TikTok video does not show a barrage of rockets being fired at or from Gaza in May 2021. YES: This video appears to show a test of a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) and has been online since at least November 2018.
Note: This clip also went viral out of context in January 2020 after Iran fired ballistic missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.
Related: “As violence in Israel and Gaza plays out on social media, activists raise concerns about tech companies’ interference” (Antonia Noori Farzan, The Washington Post).
NO: The U.S. Census Bureau did not confirm any conflicts or problems related to the number of voters in the 2020 presidential election. NO: Census figures do not show that there was “a discrepancy of nearly four million votes” in the election. YES: The total number of votes in the 2020 election exceeded the number of people who reported to the Census Bureau that they had voted. YES: More than 36 million people age 18 and older did not tell the Census Bureau whether or not they voted in the election. YES: Researchers previously have found mismatches between people who say they voted and their actual voting record.
Related: “‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How Disinformation Drives Voting Laws” (Maggie Astor, The New York Times).