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AFP Fact Check articles of the week

August 7, 2020

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

1. Beirut blast

Several posts on social media claimed that tweets from the Israeli prime minister’s official Twitter account indicated the country was responsible for a massive explosion that devastated large parts of central Beirut. But the tweets — which were sent before the blast — actually referred to Israel’s strikes in Syria the day before.

2. Coronavirus treatment

A video news report that claimed France officially sanctioned hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the novel coronavirus was widely shared on Facebook alongside captions making a similar claim. The video, however, is old and predates France’s ban on hydroxychloroquine as a prescription drug for the disease. The report, which aired on a far-right US television channel, was also removed from YouTube after it violated the site’s policies.

3. Hong Kong press freedom

A graphic was shared hundreds of times in multiple posts on Facebook in Hong Kong which claimed that government-issued press credentials are required in China, the UK, the US and Singapore. The posts, which circulated during Hong Kong’s ongoing pro-democracy protests, suggested the territory should also make it mandatory for journalists to obtain government-issued press passes. The claim is misleading. Among the countries listed in the graphic, only China requires journalists to have government-issued press passes.

4. Swine flu claim

Multiple Facebook posts were shared tens of thousands of times which claimed the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, had infected far fewer people than the H1N1 virus, or swine flu. The posts suggested “media hysteria” had prompted an overblown response to COVID-19. In April 2020, however, the World Health Organization said that COVID-19 is “10 times more deadly than swine flu” and health experts say COVID-19 has a higher death rate than swine flu, which could in turn put more pressure on healthcare systems.

5. Swiss parade photo

A photo was shared thousands of times in multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter which claimed to show a protest against coronavirus restrictions in the German capital of Berlin in August 2020. The claim is false. The photo, which has circulated online since at least 2018, shows a street parade in Switzerland before the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. http://u.afp.com/israellebanonblast

2. http://u.afp.com/PressCards

3. http://u.afp.com/H1N1comparison

4. http://u.afp.com/francehydroxychloroquine

5. http://u.afp.com/ZurichParade

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