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AFP Fact Check articles of the week

February 14, 2020

AFP’s fact-check service debunks misinformation spread online. Here are some of our recent fact-checks:

1. Coronavirus euthanasia hoax

A hoax claiming the Chinese government sought Supreme Court approval to authorise the killing of more than 20,000 novel coronavirus patients in an effort to curb the growing epidemic was shared hundreds of times in multiple posts on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. The article appeared prominently in posts in the Philippines and Nigeria. But the claim was false. China has made no such announcement and the article was published on a site that regularly produces fake reports.

2. US Speaker Nancy Pelosi not fined

An article was shared thousands of times on Facebook that claimed Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, faced a steep fine after she tore up a copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. However, the claim was false. The story originated on a satirical website and Pelosi’s office denied she had been fined.

3. Novel coronavirus officially named

Claims that COVID-19, a name the World Health Organization recently created for the novel coronavirus that broke out in China, stands for “China Outbreak Virus in December 19” were viewed hundreds of times in social media posts. But the WHO confirmed COVID-19 is an abbreviation of “coronavirus disease 2019”, adding that geographical locations are not included when naming diseases to avoid stigmatisation.

4. Pregnancy test scare

Videos claiming that Clearblue pregnancy tests contain Plan B, a type of morning-after pill, were viewed millions of times on social media. The claims were made in reference to a small tablet that is packaged with the tests. However, the company said the capsules are in fact desiccant tablets intended to absorb moisture and should not be consumed.

5. Hot cross bun misinformation

Multiple Facebook posts claimed bun spice essence, a flavouring sometimes added to hot cross buns, could be dangerous to consume. The posts highlighted a warning label on a bottle of bun spice essence, which stated the product was “flammable” and “may cause cancer.” But the Australian food authority said the ingredients in the essence were all “permitted” in food and the product manufacturer also told AFP the warning is only valid when consumed in excess.

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