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AFP Fact Check articles of the week

August 30, 2019

AFP’s fact-check service debunks misinformation spread online. Here is a selection from around the world published on our blog this week:

1. Immigrant billboard vandalised

A popular tweet showed an anti-immigration election billboard in Canada’s province of Nova Scotia that was purportedly vandalised. The text on the original sign — next to a photo of the leader of the People’s Party of Canada Maxime Bernier — said “say NO to mass immigration”. Letters were apparently blanked out and the message changed to “Say NO to ass man”. The photo however was digitally altered and after much controversy the billboards were taken down.

2. Ramaphosa ‘slams’ Trump

A screenshot shared widely on Facebook purports to show a tweet by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa retorting to US President Donald Trump’s controversial 2018 comments on land reform in South Africa. According to the screenshot, Ramaphosa supposedly hit back with a barb about mass shootings in the United States. But this tweet was not posted by the South African leader. There is no record of Ramaphosa tweeting such a message at Trump, and the South African president’s spokeswoman confirmed that it was not posted by him.

3. US siblings seek marriage?

Photographs of a man and a woman were shared around the world in online posts claiming they were an American brother and sister who had been permitted to marry by the US Supreme Court. The pictures actually showed a British couple who were not related and had campaigned for the right to obtain a civil partnership in the United Kingdom. AFP found that the court ruling included in the post was faked — US law does not allow siblings to marry.

4. Hong Kong viral photo

After an image of an unarmed Hong Kong man pleading with an armed policeman was published by Western media including the New York Times, thousands of posts appeared on Weibo, Facebook and Twitter purporting to share photos of the same man attacking police during a pro-democracy protest. The photos actually show two different men at the rally, which took place on August 25, in Hong Kong’s Tsuen Wan district.

5. Accidental Airbus purchase

A story of a Saudi man who accidentally bought two Airbus A350-1000s for his son’s birthday, instead of miniature models of the passenger jet was widely shared on social media. The tall tale tapped into stereotypes about the vast wealth of some Saudi nationals however AFP found that in reality, the story originated on a satirical website, and an Airbus official confirmed that it had been invented. He also told AFP about the lengthy process of buying a jet and that it’s not possible to buy an A350 by handing over credit card details on the phone.






Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.