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 07 July 2023 17:06 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:


Video of a post office on fire in the Philippines misrepresented as library in France during riots

CLAIM: A video shows a major library in France burning during riots sparked by the police killing of a 17-year-old.

THE FACTS: While the facade of a library in Marseille was reportedly vandalized during the unrest, the widely shared video shows the fiery destruction of a historic post office in the Philippines in May. Social media users are nevertheless claiming the video shows a storied library in France set ablaze by rioters during the European nation’s unrest. The dramatic aerial footage shows a massive structure with Roman-style columns along the water fully engulfed in flames. “France’s national library being culturally enriched,” wrote one user on Instagram who shared the video. “How do you feel about the arson attack on the Bibliothèque nationale de France?” “Now this is tragic. I’m truly shocked and can’t comprehend this. The biggest library in France (in Marseille) burnt down by rioters,” wrote a Twitter user who also shared the video. The footage actually shows a massive fire in the Philippines that tore through the Central Post Office in the capital city of Manila on May 22. News reports at the time, including from The Associated Press, feature similar video clips of the classically-designed building with flames and dark billowy smoke pouring out. Spokespersons for Manila’s Public Information Office, which provided the aerial footage to the AP, confirmed the video being widely shared showed the Central Post Office burning in May. Elodie Vincent, a spokesperson for France’s National Library, also confirmed in an email that the Parisian library was unharmed during the unrest. What’s more, the exteriors and locations of the two French libraries referenced in social media posts are vastly different from that of the five-story Manila post office, which sits along the banks of the Pasig River. France’s National Library is a lower slung building built in the Beaux Arts style that’s located a few blocks away from the Seine, near the Jardin du Palais Royal. The Alcazar Library is similarly located blocks away from the waterfront, in Marseille’s central commercial district. The library reopened Tuesday after its front windows were shattered and entry vandalized by rioters, according to local news reports.

— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.


A video of an Australian parking lot fire is being misrepresented as a protest in Marseille

CLAIM: A video shows a parking lot of cars that was set on fire by protesters in Marseille, France.

THE FACTS: The video shows a fire at an auction yard in Perth, Australia, in April. The dramatic footage showing dozens of cars going up in flames spread on social media this week, following violent unrest in France after the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old in suburban Paris. The video shows a large parking lot with vehicles stacked three levels high on racks. One section of the yard is completely engulfed in flames, and loud pops can be heard as sparks erupt from cars on the top level. “Marseille: Rioters set fire to a parking lot filled with brand new vehicles,” read one tweet shared hundreds of times. While there is real footage of cars set ablaze during the recent protests, this video was taken several months earlier and on the other side of the planet. A reverse image search shows the footage matches a clip posted to Twitter on April 28 of a fire at a lot owned by Pickles, an Australian auction house. The Twitter user, Jacey Knowles, confirmed to The Associated Press that she took the video near her home in Bibra Lake, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Pickles said in a statement at the time that a fire had broken out that day at a storage yard housing salvage vehicles in Bibra Lake. Kelly Drew, a spokesperson for Pickles, said in an email Monday that the video circulating on social media this week looks like the same fire, pointing to an article in The West Australian newspaper that showed similar footage from a different angle. The footage also matches imagery on Google Maps of the lot. One other clue gives away the video’s real location: People can be heard speaking in Australian accents in the background.


Oregon does not have more registered voters than residents, despite claims

CLAIM: Oregon has more registered voters than state residents.

THE FACTS: The population of Oregon is more than 4 million, according to the most recent U.S. Census, while state election records show approximately 3.2 million people are eligible to vote in the state and approximately 2.99 million are actually registered. Social media users falsely claimed the state now has more registered voters than people because of HB 2691, a 2021 law that requires county officials to mail a notice to voters 75 days prior to an election if their registration has been deemed inactive. It also prohibits voters from being classified as inactive for not voting or updating their voter registration. “Thanks to the Democrat Super Majority in 2021, Oregon has more registered and active voters than the entire population of the state,” wrote one Instagram user, sharing a clip that claims voter registration data “by county” shows more than 4.2 million “active voters.” “This indicates a major problem and possibility that we may have hundreds of thousands of phantom voters.” But the population of Oregon remains sizably larger than the total number of people eligible to vote in the state and the number of those actually registered is smaller than both figures, according to federal census and state voter records. During last November’s election, the northwestern state had a total population of 4,266,560, of which 3,190,451 were eligible to vote, according to a report at the time from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections. Of those eligible, 2,985,820 had actually registered to vote. The number of registered voters has inched up slightly since to 2,987,447, according to the most recent county-by-county breakdown of voter registration data released by the office last month. But that’s still nowhere close to the 4,237,256 counted in the 2020 Census, let alone the more recent population estimates cited in the state’s post-election report. Ben Morris, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office, also rejected the notion floated in one of the social media posts that county level data contradicts the state figures and shows evidence of so-called “phantom voters.” “This is false. The state keeps the voter registration list and there is no ‘county’ data that isn’t represented in the numbers I gave you earlier,” he wrote, referencing the June voter registration report. Brian Van Bergen, elections and recording manager for Marion County, which includes the state capital of Salem, confirmed Oregon’s voter registration system is a single database used by all 36 counties in the state. “The thought that county-level data is somehow different than statewide data is completely false,” he wrote in an email. “It is all the same data.” Officials also disputed the notion that HB 2681 prohibited elections officials from updating voter rolls and automatically turned all inactive voter registrations into active voter registrations. “Oregon still updates voter registration lists continuously to remove deceased people, people who move and people who become ineligible for other reasons,” wrote Morris.

— Philip Marcelo


Fabricated image tweeted by a Russian embassy shows a made-up Politico article about Ukraine

CLAIM: A screenshot shows a Politico article about the war in Ukraine titled, “20 000 000 lives for the sake of freedom,” which reported that Ukraine will need to sacrifice tens of millions of lives to win its war against Russia.

THE FACTS: The screenshot of the article is fabricated and the news outlet has never published such a story, a spokesperson for Politico confirmed to The Associated Press. Russia’s embassy in South Africa tweeted the falsified image this week, suggesting that the political news outlet had published the article to its website. “#Ukraine will need 20 000 000 lives to ‘return’ territories – Politico,” reads the post. “As they have already said, #NATO is pushing a war to be fought until the last Ukrainian.” The fabricated image mimics how an article would look if viewed on Politico’s website from a mobile device. It includes the outlet’s logo and a tag above the headline that reads, “Research,” but the text is also full of grammar and punctuation errors. For example, the headline, which reads, “20 000 000 lives for the sake of freedom,” is missing two commas. “And this, as turned out is almost the entire working-age population,” reads a subheadline, which leaves out the word “it,” among other mistakes. Searches on Politico’s website show no record of such an article and Melissa Cooke, a spokesperson for the outlet, confirmed in an email to the AP that “this article was not published by POLITICO.” The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of South Africa did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its tweet.

— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.


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