NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
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:
Photos, videos claiming to show Russian invasion of Ukraine are miscaptioned
CLAIM: Videos show a Russian fighter jet plummeting to the ground after being shot down and fighter squads flying in unison over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, while a photo of a plane in flames shows “the 6th Russian aircraft downed by Ukraine.”
THE FACTS: As Russia unleashed airstrikes and ground attacks across Ukraine on Thursday, social media users shared old and out-of-context videos falsely claiming they showed the invasion. Among them was a video of a plane plummeting from the sky and crashing in flames, falsely identified as a Russian fighter jet being shot down in Ukraine. The video, which is from The Associated Press, shows a warplane in Libya being shot down by rebels in March 2011. Also misrepresented was a video that featured multiple clips of jets flying in various formations across a cloudy daytime sky, with trees, buildings and power lines visible in each frame. A reverse-image search revealed the video is nearly two years old, and was captured during a rehearsal for the 2020 Victory Day parade in Moscow. A version of the video was posted to YouTube on May 4, 2020. A Russian-language caption identified it as the “air part” of a “parade rehearsal.” Meanwhile, a photo of a plane consumed by flames was shared widely, falsely identified as a Russian jet shot down by Ukraine. It was actually a mirrored version of an image that dates back three decades. According to a photo caption, it shows a pilot ejecting from a burning Russian MiG-29 after it collided with another during an airshow in the U.K. in July 1993. The photo is credited to Carl Ford, who posted the image on his Flickr account as well. Ford confirmed in an email to the AP that the image being shared online is his and that he took it at the 1993 Fairford airshow.
— Associated Press writers Ali Swenson in New York, Amanda Seitz in Washington and Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed this report.
National child development milestone changes not tied to pandemic
CLAIM: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly lowered the milestones for early childhood development in response to the pandemic.
THE FACTS: Experts relied on research done prior to the pandemic to recommend changes to childhood development milestones used by pediatric professionals to identify developmental delays or disabilities. But social media users are misrepresenting updates to the milestones, such as communication or cognitive behaviors, to falsely claim that changes were made because of the effects of the pandemic on children from masks and lockdowns. Posts shared on social media shared screenshots of the updates and tied them to the pandemic. “You know how The Parents have been screaming about developmental delays caused by masks? Well @CDCgov just took care of this for us by lowering milestones. The “new normal,” is kids with developmental delays,” one tweet said. Researchers who took part in the study in collaboration with the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that the milestone updates have no relation to the pandemic, as they are based on pre-pandemic data. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced that they had revised the milestones as part of “ Learn the Signs. Act Early, ” a program designed to encourage parents to monitor their children for childhood developmental delays and disabilities. Pediatric and early childcare professionals rely on milestones to discern developmental delays in children with the hopes of spotting them sooner for treatment. The CDC had asked the American Academy of Pediatrics to put together a group of experts to update the milestones, which were originally created in 2004. The group released their findings on Feb. 8. According to the CDC, the milestone revisions were in the works for several years prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Researchers attempted to standardize the ages at which children can be expected to reach social and emotional milestones. For example, the group looked at what ages children should be laughing or showing facial expressions, said Dr. Paul Lipkin, a member of the AAP Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and Council on Children with Disabilities. Previously, developmental milestone checklists were marked at an age where 50% of children can be expected to reach a particular milestone. But this wasn’t helpful for families worried about their child’s development and could lead to delays in diagnosing problems. To address this, the group recommended increasing the percentile of children from 50% to 75% who would be expected to exhibit behaviors at a specific age. Dr. Jennifer Cross, developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, said the new percentage will hopefully catch more potential delays. The new milestones also added checklists at the ages of 15 months and 30 months (2.5 years). Checklists now cover children from 2 months to 5 years of age. Lipkin, professor of pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, added that the prior milestones list was outdated. The researchers detailed their revised recommendations in the “Evidence-Informed Milestones for Developmental Surveillance Tools” study, which clearly states that experts collaborated through in-person meetings, six virtual meetings and email reviews from January to September of 2019. While experts continue to investigate any impacts the pandemic has had on children, Lipkin said that the new milestones in no way reflect that. “This was clearly an effort intended to best inform families so they could get their children identified and get help that they needed,” he said.
— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.
News error prompts unfounded claim that queen is taking ivermectin
CLAIM: News report proves Queen Elizabeth II is taking ivermectin for her COVID-19 infection.
THE FACTS: An Australian news outlet included footage of ivermectin in a segment reporting on the queen’s COVID-19 diagnosis, but later said it was a “human error” and that it did not intend to “suggest the Queen is using Ivermectin.” A clip of the report fueled an unfounded claim online that the 95-year-old monarch is taking the antiparasitic drug as a treatment. The clip aired during a report by “A Current Affair,” a program on Australia’s 9News. It shows Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, a doctor in Australia, saying that “people in their 90s are at significant danger of the bad outcomes of COVID.” A voiceover adds that “Haikerwal says a COVID patient the queen’s age should be isolating and might benefit from new medicines currently approved for high-risk patients at Australian hospitals.” Footage in the report shows vials of sotrovimab — a monoclonal antibody treatment — before cutting to a shot of Stromectol, a brand name for ivermectin. But the show subsequently posted a clarification online, saying: “Last night our report on the Queen contained a shot that should not have been included. The shot was included as a result of human error.” “We were highlighting an approved infusion medication called Sotrovimab and the report accidentally cut to a shot of Stromectol - a product which contains Ivermectin,” the statement continued. The show said it did not intend to suggest Haikerwal endorsed Stromectol, adding: “We do not suggest the Queen is using Ivermectin.” Health authorities in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. have not recommended ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment. The physician to the queen did not respond to an email inquiry. The palace has not commented on the queen’s treatment. The queen postponed two virtual audiences as she continued to experience cold-like symptoms, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. Randomized controlled trials studying ivermectin to treat COVID-19 have yielded mixed results, as the AP has reported. Ivermectin is approved in the U.S. in tablet form to treat parasitic worms as well as a topical solution to treat external parasites. The drug is also available for animals.
— Angelo Fichera
Canada’s governor general didn’t call for emails to remove Trudeau
CLAIM: The governor general of Canada “said she needs 958,000 emails to remove” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from office.
THE FACTS: The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General said “no such registry or process exists.” Social media users have spread an erroneous claim in recent days suggesting that Trudeau will be removed if enough emails are submitted. “The Governor General of Canada said she needs 958,000 emails to remove Trudeau,” reads the false post shared across social media platforms. The post includes contact information and instructions for individuals to send Mary Simon, the governor general, a “Non Confidence Vote to remove Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister.” But the secretary’s office directed the AP to a statement it issued on Tuesday that said the office was “aware that misinformation encouraging citizens to contact the Governor General or our office to register votes of no confidence is circulating on social media. This information is not correct. No such registry or process exists.” Philippe Lagassé, an associate professor of international affairs at Carleton University with expertise on the Canadian government, said such emails to officials may be a way “to draw attention to the cause these people are advancing.” But, he said in an email, a governor general “would not dismiss a Prime Minister based on a petition or emails from the population. This is simply now how the constitution operates.” Among the duties of the governor general, who also serves as commander-in-chief, is to ensure that Canada has a prime minister and a government that has the confidence of Parliament. Lagassé said a governor general does have the legal authority to dismiss a prime minister, but “will not dismiss a Prime Minister as long as they hold the confidence of the House of Commons or are seeking to secure confidence (following an election, for example.)” “The only other cases where the Prime Minister could be dismissed is if the Prime Minister is flagrantly violating the constitution” or engaged in criminal activity, he added.
— Angelo Fichera
Tweet attributed to World Economic Forum is fake
CLAIM: The World Economic Forum tweeted: “Should the age of consent be lowered to 13 or less? How age of consent laws may be infringing on human rights.”
THE FACTS: The tweet is fabricated. There is no record that the World Economic Forum ever created such a post and the organization confirmed in a statement to The Associated Press that the tweet is fake. Social media users reshared the fabricated image from several months ago to suggest that the WEF once posed a question about lowering the age of consent for sexual activity to 13 years old or younger. The fake tweet was shared as a screenshot and shows what appears to be the WEF’s logo and blue “verified” checkmark. Below the text is a hyperlink and a photo, making it appear the post linked to a WEF article. Some versions of the image claim the tweet was posted March 17, 2021, at 2:12 p.m. The image appeared in a thread of satirical fake tweets in June 2021 and has spread online as real since then. It gained renewed attention Saturday when an athlete shared it with his thousands of followers. But WEF officials say the image is not authentic. “This is a fake post and it is outrageous that it would even be considered as a post from the Forum,” Amanda Russo, head of media content for the World Economic Forum, wrote in an email to the AP. Internet archives show no record that the WEF posted or deleted such a tweet in the days surrounding March 17, 2021. Additionally, the hyperlink included in the falsified image directs to an error page, and the WEF’s website contains no related articles. Further, there are no tweets or replies from other social media users to the WEF’s Twitter handle on March 17, 2021, inquiring about the supposed tweet. In June, a separate false tweet purporting to be from the organization circulated with a claim about harvesting children’s blood. At the time, a WEF spokesperson confirmed to the AP that the NGO never published that post. Both of the fabricated tweets, among others, appeared in a Twitter thread on June 14, 2021, by a social media user who claimed responsibility for them and later clarified that all of the supposed screenshots were “fake parody tweets.” The user later added: “People have retweeted them without context, or were just oblivious to the joke, and now many people believe they are real.”
— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp contributed this report.
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