NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week

Social media users shared a range of false claims this week

The Associated Press
Friday 14 April 2023 16:33 BST

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:


Federal Reserve’s payment service FedNow would not replace cash

CLAIM: The Federal Reserve is launching a digital currency app, FedNow, that will eliminate physical cash.

THE FACTS: FedNow is a service that allows banks and credit unions to transfer funds more quickly. It’s not a form of currency, nor is it a move toward eliminating cash, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System stated. FedNow has been in the works since 2019 and will launch in July 2023. In recent days, social media users have misrepresented the service, claiming it is a step toward “getting rid of physical money and having digital currency.” In response to the misinformation and confusion, the Federal Reserve reiterated on Twitter that FedNow is not a form of currency. Instead, it is a payments service that will be available to banks and credit unions, enabling them to speed up the processing of checks and electronic payments. This will mean people can access their paychecks and transfer money to other accounts instantly, any time of the day or week. Currently, these processes can take up to three days to clear and are often delayed on holidays and weekends. “FedNow has nothing to do with replacing cash. It is an upgrade to the decades old payment system,” said Aaron Klein, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, in an email to the AP. Klein noted that if banks use the service, it will make payments faster, resulting in fewer overdraft fees, late fees and visits to check cashers. Many countries already have real-time payment systems similar to FedNow, including England. The U.S. already has a real time payment network, but it’s run by private banks. The Fed is separately researching the potential to issue a digital currency, commonly referred to as a “central bank digital currency,” or CBDC. Yet that research is in its early phases and there isn’t uniform support among Fed officials for issuing such a currency. A central bank digital currency would potentially allow Americans to make electronic transactions without relying on a third party, such as a bank. “The Federal Reserve has made no decision on issuing a central bank digital currency and would not do so without clear support from Congress and the executive branch, ideally in the form of a specific authorizing law,” the Federal Reserve’s website states. “A CBDC would not replace cash or other payment options.”


Posts distort proposed LGBTQ ‘safety zone’ bill in Canada

CLAIM: A proposed bill in Canada would subject anyone who misgenders others or engages in anti-LGBTQ protests to prosecution and a $25,000 fine.

THE FACTS: The bill would not institute a blanket ban on misgendering and anti-LGBTQ protests. The legislation, introduced by members of the opposition party in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, would allow the province’s attorney general to temporarily prohibit people from engaging in acts of intimidation, such as threats or homophobic protests, within 100 meters (328 feet) of certain properties. Proponents say that the bill is intended to protect drag performers and LGBTQ communities from intimidation. Erroneous claims about the bill have spread widely across social media platforms. “New bill in Canada would prosecute anyone that misgendered, criticised or protested against Transgenderism,” one Twitter user wrote in a post shared more than 6,000 times. “Anyone deemed ‘transphobic, homophobic or offensive’ would face prosecution and a $25,000 fine.” The legislation, which was introduced on April 4, would permit the Ontario attorney general to temporarily designate a property as a “ 2SLGBTQI+ community safety zone” and prohibit an “act of intimidation” — such as threats, transphobic or homophobic demonstrations, and distributing “hate propaganda” — within 100 meters of that property, according to the bill text. Violators could face a fine of up to $25,000. The New Democratic Party of Ontario, whose members sponsored the bill, said it is a response to a rise in hate crimes and intimidation of drag artists and the LGBTQ community. The online claims are “inaccurate and distorting,” Brenda Cossman, a law professor at the University of Toronto, wrote in an email to the AP, noting that the bill does not include a broad provision concerning misgendering, and the restrictions only apply to the designated zones. “The bill would not prosecute anyone deemed homophobic etc,” Cossman wrote. “It would only apply to individuals who seek to intimidate within the designated safety zones.” The New Democratic Party of Ontario said in a statement that some have “twisted the facts” about the legislation. “This legislation would not stop anyone from enjoying freedom of expression or assembly," the statement reads. To become law, the bill would still need to win a majority vote of the Assembly’s members, and The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has a large majority in the provincial legislative body.

— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.


No, farmers aren’t required to vaccinate livestock with mRNA vaccines

CLAIM: Farmers and ranchers are required to inject livestock with mRNA vaccines.

THE FACTS: There is no mandate in the U.S. that livestock receive certain vaccines and there are no COVID-19 mRNA vaccines licensed for animals, as some online have suggested. Both messenger RNA, or mRNA, and RNA are natural, essential components of all living cells. The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA to instruct cells to create a spike protein to fight the disease. Social media posts in recent days have falsely asserted that farmers are required to vaccinate livestock with such vaccines and baselessly suggested that unsuspecting humans will therefore consume the immunizations. “I just recently read that farmers and ranchers are being told that they must inject their livestock with the mRNA vaccine,” a man in an Instagram video claims. “What temperature do I need to cook my cow in order to get rid of the mRNA death jab vaccine thing?” Experts, industry groups and officials say there are no such requirements. “There is no requirement or mandate that producers vaccinate their livestock for any disease,” U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Marissa Perry said in an email. “It is a personal and business decision left up to the producer and will remain that way.” Jason Menke, a National Pork Board spokesperson, said in a statement that the “decision to use vaccines and other medical treatments to protect animal health and well-being are made by the farmer under the direction of the herd veterinarian.” In terms of COVID-19 specifically, there are no licensed mRNA vaccines against that disease for animals, Perry said. Some animals, particularly those in zoos considered susceptible, have received vaccines against COVID-19. But those immunizations do not rely on mRNA technology, said Suresh Kuchipudi, a veterinary scientist and chair of emerging infectious diseases at Penn State University. Experts also say there are no animal vaccines currently licensed in the U.S. against any disease that use the same mRNA approach as humans’ COVID-19 vaccines, which entails delivering the mRNA by using a fatty coating called lipid nanoparticles — though some are being researched. There are some animal vaccines that use other RNA platforms. The pharmaceutical company Merck has for several years offered a customizable vaccine using what it calls “RNA particle technology”; the company creates vaccines against the flu and other viruses in pigs to protect a specific herd as needed. That approach predates the advent of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. The notion that mRNA vaccines would be transmissible through animal consumption — much less cause harm to the consumer — is not rooted in scientific evidence, experts told the AP. “The messenger RNA is extremely fragile,” Kuchipudi said, and is typically gone within days of receipt. “The chance of the mRNA being transferred, even hypothetically, is extremely unlikely.” Moreover, regulators licensing vaccines for food animals require something called a “withdrawal time,” said Alan Young, a professor of veterinary and biomedical science at South Dakota State University who also founded veterinary vaccine company Medgene. “Any licensed vaccine comes with a minimum time before you’re allowed to actually have that animal to enter the food chain." Menke, of the National Pork Board, added: “Vaccines are critical to preserving animal health and well-being, keeping the food supply safe, and protect U.S. livestock from emerging and foreign diseases."

— Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed this report.


Video of roller destroying beer cans unrelated to Bud Light backlash

CLAIM: A video shows Bud Light drinkers using a “steamroller” to destroy beer cans in response to the brand partnering with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer.

THE FACTS: The video is from February 2023, prior to the controversy, and shows a road roller in Mexicali, Mexico, being used to destroy thousands of beer cases that had been confiscated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The municipality announced that the cases were destroyed due to health risks. But some online posts misrepresented the video as showing cans being destroyed in response to the brand’s partnership with Mulvaney, which has been met with transphobic commentary from conservative social media personalities. “Bud Light drinkers use steamroller to destroy beer in protest against partnership with trans influencer,” one blog featuring the video falsely stated. The false claim also circulated widely on TikTok and Reddit. The footage matches multiple similar videos that were posted on Feb. 28, 2023. That day, the Mexicali municipal government’s Twitter account posted photos of the same event, explaining that it showed the destruction of more than 85,000 beer containers that had been seized in 2020 by the City Council of Mexicali. According to local reports, the cans were confiscated during the pandemic as people tried to bring cases of beer across the U.S.-Mexico border. In April 2020, the AP reported that Mexico had ordered the closure of most “non-essential” industries, which included the country’s major breweries. Norma Bustamante, municipal president of Mexicali, tweeted on Feb. 27 that the authorization to destroy the cases of beer was approved “in order to avoid infections or other health risks.”


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