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.

WORLD

Claim: Google deleted Palestine from their maps

Facts: Thousands posts have been shared on social media around the world promoting the hashtag #PalestineIsHere, a campaign to denounce Google's alleged decision to delete Palestine from their maps. For Internet users, this lack of recognition would highlight the bias of the company, who would thus indirectly support the Israeli policy of annexation.

Truth: After seeing this claim, a spokesperson for Google told AFP on July 20, 2020, that no changes have been made recently to borders or territories in this part of the world.

The spokesperson also specified that Google has never labeled Palestine on Google Maps, as AFP Fact Check reports. This claim was also shared in 2016, and several media already proved at the time that Palestine has never been demarcated on Google Maps.

USA

Claim: Starbucks supports the "Defund the Police” campaign

Facts: A statement was widely shared on social media claiming: “Starbucks says Defund the Police.

Let’s defund Starbucks. Ask all friends and family not to be Starbucks patrons. Dunkin coffee is just as good.”

Truth: “Defund the Police” is a rising campaign to “substantially divert funding away from police forces, as well as to replace existing models of local law enforcement”, as Snopes defines.

The movement has received a strong opposition from right-leaning parties such as Trump supporters. However, as Snopes reports that no proof shows that Starbucks has been supporting the “Defund the Police” campaign.The coffee company has been taking part in “Coffee with a cop,” a campaign to invite police officers to drink a coffee in their local shop with the aim to create communication between them and the citizens.

This initiative, as Snopes notes, is going against the “Defund the Police’s” principles that are believing that “relationships are damaged beyond repair and efforts to reform policing have failed and should no longer be attempted.”

UK

Claim: The UK government has admitted it ‘accidentally’ sold at least 10,000 children to known child traffickers in the last year alone

Facts: An article was widely shared on Facebook. The headline reads: “The UK Government has admitted it ‘accidentally sold at least 10,000 children to known child traffickers in the last year alone.”

Truth: The article was published in 2018 and shares a story by ‘YourNewsWire’, as Reuters reports. This website was described by CBS as a “Fake News website to watch out for”.

The article shared reads: “The UK government has admitted it ‘accidentally’ sold at least 10,000 children to known child traffickers in the last year alone. Tens of thousands of children mysteriously disappear from government care every year, where they are groomed by sex traffickers, recently released government data reveals.”

However, as Reuters finds, “YourNewsWire had articles fact-checked over 80 times before it ceased publishing under this name in 2018.” The website used to point at government data and manipulate the numbers in order to prove a point. In this case, the UK government's Department for Education published numbers in September 2017 declaring that "in the year ending 31 March 2017 there were 10,700 children looked after who had a missing incident.” Nothing mentions that the children were being sold to “known child traffickers” and most of the missing cases were taking place during a short period of time: “4,230 missing incidents (89%) lasted 2 days or less and 490 lasted more than 30 days,” says the report.

The numbers have been used and misshared.

FRANCE

Claim: Members of the Black Panthers movement attacked and vandalized churches in the United States

Facts: A few weeks after George Floyd’s death, several posts in French were shared on Facebook affirming that the Black Panthers movement attacked and vandalized churches in the United States. Several pictures are shared with the post to prove this claim. The caption reads: “Black Panthers attack churches in the USA. They destroy all the churches in the USA with white statues of Jesus and Mary because according to them, it is the origin of evil in the black community of the world and of racism.”

Truth: Using Google Reverse, AFP Fact Check found that the pictures were taken during an anti-government demonstration in the streets of Santiago, Chile, taken on November 8, 2019.

Most of these pictures belong to the European Press Agency and were taken by a photographer called Orlando Barria. The caption reads: “Objects removed from Ascension Parish during anti-government protests in Plaza Italia in central Santiago, Chile."

LATIN AMERICA

Claim: Photograph of Obama shows that new coronavirus has been planned since 2015

Facts: A post in Spanish shared on Facebook profiles in Latin America claims that a photograph shows Barack Obama visiting in 2015 a laboratory in Wuhan responsible for “manufacturing” the new coronavirus. The post caption states: “An image from five years ago. Chinese Wuhan laboratory. Barack Obama, Anthony Fauci and Melinda Gates visit the virus ‘factory’ to check the progress of coronavirus research.”

Truth: The claim, however, makes no sense.

The image is actually from December 2014. Contrary to what the rumor says, the picture shows Barack Obama, immunologist Anthony Fauci and then Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell – and not Bill Gates' wife, Melinda – during a visit to the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (Niaid). According to information from Science magazine, which reported the fact at the time with the same photo, Obama's visit to the center took place on the occasion of the development of an Ebola vaccine.

ITALY

Claim: Bill Gates predicts 700.000 victims because of COVID-19 vaccine

Facts: Article published on July 15 on the far-right message board DataBase Italia, and shared hundreds of times on social media, claims billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates said in an interview with CNBC that he expected 700,000 people to suffer permanent damage due to side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Truth: The claim posted on the Italian page actually started circulating on the web as early as May, when several fact-checking agencies published articles showing that the information was false. What Bill Gates actually said at the time was: “Here, we clearly need a vaccine that works in the upper age range, because they’re most at risk of that. And doing that so that you amp it up so it works in older people, and yet you don’t have side effects. You know, if we have, you know, one in 10,000 side effects, that’s, you know, way more — 700,000, you know, people — who will suffer from that… So, really understanding the safety at gigantic scale across all age ranges… it’s very, very hard.” The statement actually shows that he was warning that even minimal errors in vaccine development cannot be tolerated, as human costs would be very high.

PORTUGAL

Claim: Alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel eliminates our body's “first natural immune barrier”

Facts: Post shared on Portuguese Facebook profiles claims that, according to a French naturopath, the alcohol-based sanitizer gel “should not be used for several days in a row because it eliminates the first natural immune barrier in our body.”

Truth: The claim is false. In an interview with the Portuguese fact-checking agency Polígrafo, doctor João Júlio Cerqueira affirms that “the advantages of disinfecting hands with alcohol-based gels are immensely superior to the possible disadvantages associated with the relative aggressiveness of these products.” According to Cerqueira, the continuous use of alcohol-based sanitizers can cause dry or cracked skin, but in both cases, the simple use of moisturizing creams solves the problem.

BRAZIL

Claim: People asymptomatic to Covid-19 can pass on antibodies to other people

Facts: Post shared on Brazilian Facebook pages claims that people infected with coronavirus and who do not develop symptoms are able to pass on antibodies to other people.

Truth: In an interview with the Brazilian fact-checking agency Aos Fatos, doctor Márcio Sommer Bittencourt, from the University Hospital of São Paulo, affirms that “immunity is not transmitted from one person to another.” According to him, "immunity is your body's ability to produce antibodies when you need to." Infectologist Juan Carlos Cataño, a professor at the University of Antioquia in Colombia, says in an interview with AFP that “there are only four options for antibodies to form.

One option is: you are exposed, you are infected and thus generate natural immunity, having the risk that this exposure will cause you to contract a disease and you can die. The other is that you get vaccinated and generate antibodies indirectly to protect you when you are exposed to the virus naturally. Another is in a specific plasma transfusion of antibodies, and the last is that it is passed from the mother to the fetus through the placenta.” Also according to Cataño, asymptomatic people are able to transmit the virus to other people, what was also confirmed by the World Health Organization.

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