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. On August 13, 2020, Kamala Harris was chosen by the U.S Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to be his running mate. As always, when a new figure comes onto the political stage, rumors and Fake News often spread to destabilize the new opponent. Here are the most shared claims of this week, with a focus on Kamala Harris’ rumors, none of which are legit.

UNITED STATES

Claim: Twitter hired Kamala Harris' press secretary “to decide what the President of the United States is allowed to say on Twitter”

Facts: On August 5, Nick Pacilio, Kamala Harris’ former press secretary, shared a tweet stating that a post from Trump’s reelection campaign account was retweeted by the President, and then removed by Twitter.

According to Pacilio, the post was removed because it violated the platform’s rules against fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic, as his position at Twitter allows him to know.

After seeing Pacilio’s post, the co-founder of The Federalist, Sean Davis, tweeted that “Twitter hired Kamala Harris’s press secretary to decide what the President of the United States is allowed to say on Twitter.”

Truth: This claim made by Davis is false. First of all, Pacilio is not Harris’ press secretary anymore, he left this role in 2014.

Secondly, his position at Twitter does not allow him to enforce any rule on the platform. He is a representative of the communications team at Twitter, therefore he would not be able to ask for a moderation of Trump’s tweets, as Snopes reports.

UNITED STATES

Claim: An image of Kamala Harris' birth certificate shows that the document identified her race as "Caucasian"

Facts: An image of Kamala Harris’ supposed birth certificate has been widely shared on social media.

The image shows that Harris was identified as “Caucasian” by her parents. Some celebrities shared this post, includingJoseph Blakeney Brown Jr, an American lawyer and television personality.

Truth: The word “Caucasian” is highlighted with a red circle on the image- but this refers to the “color or race of the mother”, not the child.

Thus, the word “Caucasian” describes Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who was Tamil Indian-American as Reuters reports. A few lines underneath, there is a similar section for the “color or race of the father”, listed as “Jamaican”. Birth certificates have evolved with time, but back then, it did not contain any details on the race of the child, as Snopes reports.

UNITED STATES

Claim: Senator Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist during a presidential debate

Facts: After the announcement that U.S Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, a rumor began circulating that Harris had called Biden racist.

This claim comes after Katrina Pierson’s release of a statement that reads: “Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received.”

After the release of this statement, several news platforms such as Fox News and The Daily Caller have spread the news, as Snopes reports.

Truth: There was an argument about race between Harris and Biden during the first Democratic primary debate in June 2019 but the Senator never called the former Vice President racist. The claim originates from Harris pointing out the fact that Biden was working with senators supporting segregation and for backing an anti-busing policy that delayed integration. However, she explicitly said: “I do not believe you are racist”, as a transcript of the debate shared by Snopes proves.

CANADA

Claim: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s daughter died on August 15 after taking a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Facts: A website called TorontoToday.net shared information about Russian President Putin’s daughter. The article says that she has died after taking a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. It reads: “Vladimir Putin’s daughter suffered unexpected side effects to the experimental Russian COVID vaccine, and has passed away in Moscow. The Kremlin has yet to make a statement on her death. A source within Russia’s inner circle stated that Putin’s daughter – Katerina Tikhonova – suffered a rise in temperature shortly after her second injection, and then suffered a seizure.

Doctors were not able to reverse the side-effects of the vaccine, and she was pronounced dead late yesterday evening.”

Truth: As Snopes highlights, the Kremlin did not confirm this claim nor did other reliable news outlets. The evidence shared to support this information are an “unnamed source within Russia’s inner circle” and a “Tarot card reading” YouTube video, which does not make the statement credible enough to be confirmed.

SINGAPORE

Claim: Singapore has 'banned' sale of US produce due to Coronavirus

Facts: A claim shared on the messaging app Line Messenger and on Facebook reads: “Don’t buy or eat vegetables and fruits from the US… Singapore has forbidden people from doing so already.

This is because the US used trucks that carry bodies of those infected with COVID-19 to carry food too, so the food will also be contaminated with the virus.”

Truth: According to AFP Fact Check, the state-run Singapore Food Agency issued a statement on Facebook on July 28, 2020, saying that no such guidance had been issued. “We are aware of posts circulating on social media making spurious claims that Singapore media has reported that fruits and food products exported from the United States (US), Europe and Brazil to Asia and Africa have been contaminated by the COVID-19 virus. SFA has not issued any statement discouraging consumption of imports from the US, Europe or Brazil.”

HONG KONG

Claim: Hong-Kong pro-democracy activist is following a “secret military training”

Facts: An image shared thousands of times on social media, including in a Hong Kong-based pro-government Facebook group, claims to show Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow holding a gun during a “secret military training”.

The caption reads: “Agnes Chow has the appearance of an angel, but she has actually been receiving military training in secret. This is very dangerous.”

Truth: According to AFP Fact Check, however, the claim is false. The image actually shows Japanese actress Hiroe Igeta in a scene from the Japanese television series “Kamen Rider Zero-One” broadcast on TV Asahi since September 2019. On August 13, Chow shared the rumor on her Facebook page followed by the caption: “Brains are awesome. I wish everybody had one.”

NIGERIA

Claim: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is dead and the man who has taken his place is a lookalike

Facts: A post that has been circulating on Facebook since July 24, 2020, compares two photographs of Buhari – one from a recent trip to Mali and the other an old portrait – and claims: “Check the features of the ears on both pictures in Pic 2 to see they are not the same.

How can the person on the right be older than the one on the left?” “Nobody can recreate a dead man without making silly mistakes. Buhari is dead and buried,” the post concludes.

Truth: According to AFP Fact Check, the owner of the Facebook page responsible for the post is Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the British-Nigerian leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist group demanding independence in southern Nigeria. In September 2017, the group was declared a terrorist organisation by the Buhari government. Coincidentally, it was in this same month that the first rumors about Buhari's death began to circulate. In an interview with AFP Fact Check, Fredrick Nwabufo, a Nigerian journalist who has written extensively about Biafra, told that IPOB sees Buhari as an obstacle to the realisation of their separatist goals, and employ the body-double narrative to “de-legitimise” the government.

UNITED KINGDOM

Claim: Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “sorry for what Britain did to India 74 years ago”

Facts: Thousands of people shared on social media a tweet in which the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson purportedly said he is “sorry for what Britain did to India 74 years ago”.

Truth: The tweet, published on August 15, day that marks the 74th anniversary of India’s independence from British rule, is from a fake account. The profile, named “BorisUKJohnson”, uses the same picture and name as Johnson’s official account, “BorisJohnson”.

BRAZIL

Claim: Pictures show "staph infections" caused by the use of face masks against Coronavirus

Facts: A collage of pictures shared on Facebook shows the faces of 5 people with marks or rashes on the skin.

The images are followed by a caption that reads: "Staphylococcus infection due to the use of masks. Understand why health professionals only wear disposable masks and change them hourly."

Truth: The photos, however, do not show people who have had skin problems due to the use of face masks. According to the Brazilian fact-checking service Fato ou Fake, the images show from a girl with chickenpox – whose photo is available in the Istock image bank– to a woman with rosacea – whose photo can be found in the Shutterstock image bank. The only image related to the use of face mask is that of a young Italian nurse, who posted the photo on her Instagram profile, stressing the importance of protective equipment and the desire to fight the virus.

SPAIN

Claim: Video shows Tokyo 2020 Olympics fireworks show

Facts: A video shared thousands of times on Facebook since August 15, 2020, shows a firework display allegedly recorded in Tokyo. According to the post, those are the fireworks that would be used in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony, postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The caption that follows the post reads: "fireworks cannot be stored until 2021, so they have been used now."

Truth: According to the Spanish fact checking website Maldita.es, the same video can be found on YouTube, published in 2015 and made with the FWsim Fireworks Simulator software.

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