The world of news is complex - and false stories and visuals are often widely shared on social media. Blasting News’ editorial team spots the most popular hoaxes and misleading information every week to help you discern truth from falsehood . Here are the most shared claims of this week, of which none are legit.

UNITED STATES

Claim: COVID-19 ‘is close to lose’ its epidemic status in the United States according to CDC data

Facts: Online reports were shared on several news platforms claiming that “COVID-19 is close to losing its epidemic status in the U.S, according to the CDC”. To support their claim, several media cited the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVIDView report from July 4 showing a declining number of deaths over the past weeks. As Snopes reports, the news platforms assumed that these numbers showed that the COVID-19 would not be classified as an epidemic in the following weeks.

Truth: As Snopes reports, the CDC “has made no announcements about COVID-19’s epidemic classification.” Moreover, an epidemic’s main indicator is “the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area”, as the CDC defines, and not the number of deaths. On another hand, if media like Just News mentioned the fact that the numbers could change, they did not specify that in the same CDC’s report it was written: “Mortality attributed to COVID-19 decreased compared to last week and is currently at the epidemic threshold but will likely increase as additional death certificates are processed.” The data shared was therefore incomplete and did not prove that COVID-19 will be no longer classified as an epidemic.

UNITED STATES

Claim: Tom Hanks is recorded in Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs

Facts: A claim has been shared on social media saying that the actor Tom Hanks flew on the Lolita Express, Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet to his island in the Caribbean.

Truth: The late financier, Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in 2019 for sex trafficking involving underage girls. His private jet was called by the locals, “Lolita Express” due to the recurrent arrivals of underage girls in Little Saint James, Caribbean. The name is therefore a reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel about a literature professor who justifies the repeated rape and sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl.

After these declarations, The New York Times shared in 2019 a list of Epstein’s guests on this boat, including records of flight logs from 1995 to 2013. However, as Reuters reports, Tom Hanks’ name does not appear in this list which proves that he is not recorded in Epstein’s flight logs.

UNITED KINGDOM

Claim: People by watching a video can help to find a kidnapped girl

Facts: Social media users have been sharing a page claiming: “Alice from [location] was kidnapped! Anyone saw her? Please help us find her. [SEE VIDEO]”. The location changes from different cities in the UK such as Walsall, Slough, East Ayrshire and Stoke-on-Trent, as Reuters reports.

Truth: The post is a phishing scam. It asks people to enter their Facebook details in order to watch the video, that has as a thumbnail picture “a photograph used in the reporting of a kidnap and murder of a three-year-old child in India in 2019”, as Reuters reports.

Moreover, the charity “Missing People” which records all the missing persons in the UK never mentioned a girl called Alice.

UNITED STATES

Claim: LeBron James threatened to quit the NBA over the national anthem

Facts: A screenshot of an article headline was shared on social media claiming that LeBron James said to the NBA: “Dump the anthem or I’ll quit”.

Truth: This article comes from a satirical page. James never said these words that are fictitious. As Reuters spotted, the logo “Allods” in the upper left corner of the image refers to a series of satirical websites including “Bustatroll.org” and “America’s Last Line of Defense.”

UNITED KINGDOM

Claim: British politician declared in an article that “it would never be ok to be white on our watch”

Facts: An image shared on Facebook and Twitter falsely suggests that the British Labour Party MP David Lammy declared in an opinion article that “it will never be okay to be white on our watch”.

The image, that mimics a headline from The Guardian, features a headshot of Lammy alongside the quote: “Lets be very clear on this, ‘its okay to be white’ is a nazi thing. It will never be okay to be white on our watch.”

Truth: According to Reuters Fact Check, the image shared on social media is fabricated and appears to have been created using the website guardianmeme, which allows people to create fake headlines using the Guardian layout. In fact, Lammy periodically contributes with The Guardian, but the phrase shared does not appear in any of his work on the newspaper’s website.

BOLIVIA

Claim: Ivermectin can save you from Covid-19

Facts: A video posted by a Bolivian Facebook account shows a Mexican pastor saying that the drug ivermectin, approved for use against parasitic worms, is effective in treating or preventing the new coronavirus.

Truth: Despite the fact that ivermectin is indeed being tested against Covid-19 in clinical trials, the efficacy of the drug is still yet to be confirmed. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), ivermectin "is incorrectly being used for the treatment of Covid-19" "without any scientific evidence of its efficacy and safety for the treatment of this disease". In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that this drug is not yet indicated to treat Covid-19.

BRAZIL

Claim: Swabs used to test for COVID-19 can cause brain damage

Facts: An image posted in a Brazilian Facebook account and shared more than 1,500 times states that the nasal swabs being used in the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 draw samples from the blood-brain barrier, which if compromised can lead to brain inflammation and death.

The post has the following caption: “Did anyone get scared by the size of this 'swab'? The place where they go to get a sample for the Covid-19 test is called a blood-brain barrier. It is a single layer of cells that protects your brain from heavy metals, pesticides and other toxic substances that are usually kept out. It's how vital nutrients, like oxygen, get to the brain. If your blood barrier is compromised in any way, it becomes an escape brain barrier, which is an inflamed brain!”

Truth: The claim that COVID-19 tests need to collect samples from the blood-brain barrier is false. In an interview with CBN radio, infectologist Ingrid Cotta, from the Beneficência Portuguesa Hospital in São Paulo, "the swab is relatively large, but it only penetrates the nasopharynx.

The discomfort it can cause generates some fears. But we need to remember science classes at school: between the nasopharynx and the brain, there are several structures, the nasal mucosa, the skull bone, the blood-brain barrier and the cerebrospinal fluid. The ‘swab’ is not able to pierce the barrier or the skull bone.”

PALESTINE

Claim: Photo shows Palestinian girl staring down a riot police officer during a protest in Jerusalem

Facts: A photo published on Facebook and shared hundreds of times shows a young woman staring down a riot police officer. The post claims that the woman is a Palestinian girl protesting against Israel’s occupation of the Al-Aqsa mosque, in Jerusalem. The post’s caption reads: “I am not a brainless stupid tiktoker muslim girl.

I am an arabian muslim girl. I will fight for my Masjid-ul-Aqsa until the last breath of my life. Stop me if you can!A brave Palestinian sister. May Allah protect our Palestinians brothers & sisters... Ameen Ya Rabb.”

Truth: According to AFP Fact Check, the claim is false. The picture was actually taken by Reuters news agency during a political protest in Chile in September 2016. According to Carlos Vera, the photographer who took the picture, in a declaration to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera, the young woman “stood in front of the cop with a defiant look” after witnessing the authorities beginning to “selectively detain people.”

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