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 real facts:
CLAIM: Federal records show George Soros is the biggest funder of the failed app used by the Iowa Democratic Party during Monday’s caucuses.
THE FACTS: Following the problems with the app used to report results of the Iowa caucuses, social media began sharing a chart of federal donations to falsely claim that Soros, a liberal financier, donated $2.6 million to Shadow Inc., which created the caucus app for the Iowa Democratic Party. “And there it is. The single largest donor of Shadow Inc., the company behind the failed Iowa Caucus app, is George Soros,” one Twitter user wrote, sharing an image of the chart. The chart does not show a donation by Soros to Shadow Inc. Instead, the chart, which was published in a November 2019 story on the investigative news site Sludge, shows Soros gave $2.6 million to the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a Democratic Party-aligned organization focused on legislative redistricting. Federal tax documents confirm the donations were made in 2018. The chart of Soros’ donation was created to reveal the largest funders of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee from 2017 to June 2019, Alex Kotch, the article’s author, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press. Federal campaign finance records show that the National Democratic Redistricting Committee gave $2 million in 2018 to PACRONYM, a political action committee created by Acronym, the liberal group that helped launch and fund Shadow Inc. last year. Soros has not directly given to PACRONYM, according to federal campaign finance records. In a statement on Twitter, Shadow Inc. apologized for the delays in results and confirmed it had “contracted with the Iowa Democratic Party to build a caucus reporting mobile app for local officials to use” Monday.
CLAIM: Video shows bats, rodents and snakes being sold along with live dogs at the Wuhan market where the new virus from China originated.
THE FACTS: Following reports by health officials that the new virus out of China originated in a seafood market where live animals are sold, a video began circulating falsely claiming it was filmed at the market in Wuhan, China. The video, which shows a market teeming with roasted rats, cut up snakes and dogs in cages for sale, was actually filmed at the Langowan Market in Sulawesi, Indonesia. In the misrepresented video, a sign, when translated into English, reads “Langowan Market Office.” In addition, at the beginning of the recording there is an Indonesian phrase that translated to English says, “Langowan EXTREME Market.” A video showing the same scene was posted to YouTube in July 2019, with a caption in Indonesian saying it showed the market. The video was posted months before the first cases of the new virus from China were detected in December. Videos with the false caption were shared across platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The new virus had infected more than 31,400 people globally as of Friday.
CLAIM: Lysol knew of the new coronavirus before the outbreak happened.
THE FACTS: As the new virus has spread, so have claims on social media suggesting that health officials and companies were aware of the new coronavirus before the outbreak, fueling conspiracy theories. While Lysol products have labels that state they disinfect against “Human coronavirus,” it is not a specific reference to the new coronavirus that emerged in China in December. Coronaviruses are part of a large family of viruses that can range from the common cold to SARS, a viral respiratory illness that spread to two dozen countries in 2003 before being contained. “So this so called new epidemic disease coronavirus ain’t so new after all … they claim it came out of nowhere but look at this,” says a false post that appeared on Facebook earlier this week. The post features a photo of a finger pointing to where the Lysol label lists “Human coronavirus.” The EPA has previously approved label claims for some disinfectants stating that they kill types of coronavirus. The coronavirus listed on certain Lysol products, for example, is not 2019-nCoV, the strain that is sweeping China. However, the EPA has a two-stage approval process that allows disinfectant makers to apply for an “emerging viral pathogen” claim to say their products are effective against related new viruses if those products work against harder-to-kill viruses. And through that process, Clorox and Lysol received EPA approval to note that some of their products are effective against new viruses like 2019-nCoV, and release this information to health care facilities, public health officials, consumer information services and social media sites. Lysol’s website even mentions that specific Lysol products have demonstrated that they are effective against viruses similar to 2019-nCoV on hard, non-porous surfaces.
CLAIM: Under President Donald Trump’s administration, if you come to the U.S. illegally you will be promptly removed.
THE FACTS: There is a massive case backlog of immigration court cases that means migrants sometimes wait years in the U.S. before being heard by one of the 440 immigration judges who decides whether migrants can stay in the U.S. or are returned to their home country. During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump made the claim that immigrants who travel to the country illegally are now promptly removed. The inaccurate statement was then amplified online by supporters of the president. U.S. courts are grappling with a backlog of 1 million immigration cases, which has steadily increased since 2008. The backlog more than doubled after Trump took office in 2016. That means migrants might wait up to three years before their case is heard before a judge. Under a new Trump policy, thousands of asylum applicants have been required to wait in Mexico while their cases are decided. According to AP reporting, many people get frustrated so they cross the border — secretly or openly — outside of the official crossings and turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents, who then take them into custody on the U.S. side. Many migrant families who request asylum and are set free in the U.S. go to live with relatives or friends. They are required to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement which city they stay in and are expected to show up to court when they get a hearing date. If a judge rules a migrant is to be deported, paperwork can often lead to further delays.
CLAIM: Photo shows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg holding a sign that reads, “Our next rally will be in Kansas City, Missouri! This way Trump and his supporters won’t be able to find us…”
THE FACTS: The photo of Thunberg was edited to change the wording of the sign she is holding to poke fun at President Trump for a tweet following the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2. Social media users began sharing the edited photo of Thunberg after Trump’s tweet congratulating the Kansas City Chiefs for their Super Bowl victory, but putting the team in the wrong state. In the now-deleted tweet, Trump wrote: “Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game, and a fantastic comeback, under immense pressure. You represented the Great State of Kansas and, in fact, the entire USA, so very well. Our Country is PROUD OF YOU!” The team is located in Missouri, not Kansas. In the original photo, Thunberg holds a sign that reads “let Russia strike for climate #FridaysForFuture.” Thunberg posted the photo to her Twitter account on May 14, 2019. “In some countries it is illegal to #schoolstrike4climate,” she tweeted with the photo. “That makes our responsibility, we who can strike, even bigger.” The edited photo of Thunberg was shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a photo that has often been manipulated online to change the wording of Thunberg’s sign. Some social media users shared the photo as a joke while others appeared to believe it was real.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
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