The world of news is complex - and false stories and visuals are often widely shared on social media. The second wave of the pandemic is hitting countries such as the U.K, Germany, Spain and France. In these challenging times, conspiracy theories and false information run rampant. That is why Blasting News’ editorial team spots viral hoaxes and misinformation every week to help you discern truth from falsehood. For these reasons this week we decided to write a COVID-19 special roundup.

Here are the most shared claims of this week, none of which are legit.

GERMANY/FRANCE

Claim: A German high school student died because of the mandatory face mask

Facts: A German right-wing deputy, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann questioned the death of a German high school student on her social media. She wondered if this was not the "first mask death" and urged "to stop this madness”.

Headlines followed after this post such as “Tragic: 13-year-old schoolgirl reportedly dies in Germany over demand for mask”, published on the French poet Guy Boulliane’s website.

Truth: On September 7th, a German girl died after leaving her bus school. The first autopsy results did not provide convincing answers. Experts investigated whether the girl had any underlying health problems but wearing the mask was not cited as a possible cause, says Le Monde. The mask’s side effects are known to be limited to dermatological problems, conjunctivitis and headaches, as Le Monde reports.

However, none of them are fatal. Birgit Malsack-Winkemann was asked to delete her post and apologized by her regional party leader, Uwe Junge.

FRANCE

Claim: The pandemic is over in France

Facts: A picture of a French flyer has been shared widely on social media.

The headline reads: “The epidemic is over!”. The document supports its claim with a graph of daily hospitalizations and adds media physician quotes such as “we don't have an infectious epidemic, we have an anxiety epidemic.”

Truth: As Le Monde reports, the graph is outdated since it shows results from the end of August.

Thus, it does not represent the current situation. As of September 22, new hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and new deaths all show a considerable growth, says Le Monde.

USA

Claim: Annual deaths data shows 2020 as having one of the lowest rates in recent years

Facts: A screenshot from a data research website called Macrotrends published an annual deaths data which shows 2020 as having one of the lowest rates since 70 years apart from the years between 2016 and 2019.Truth: The data is a study that was made in 2019, prior to the pandemic, by Macrotrends. On the official page, a disclaimer appears to declare that this data does not account for the COVID-19 deaths, as Reuters says. This data is a projection based on recorded data from previous years, before the pandemic hit the world.

It is therefore not representative of the current deaths rate.

UK

Claim: COVID-19 testing in the UK is connected to biometric data legislation

Facts: Posts shared on Facebook and Twitter claim that the Covid-19 testing in the UK is part of a conspiracy to collect people’s biometric data. Some posts include a screenshot of the Government website that documents new legislation and shows a new piece of legislation called "The Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interest of National Security) (No.

2) Regulations 2020".

Truth: According to the Home Office, as reported by Reuters, the legislation to which the posts refer relates to further extending the retention deadlines for biometrics data being retained by Counter Terrorism Policing for national security. Therefore, there is no relation between the legislation and the Covid-19 testing, let alone a plan to collect people’s biometric data.

RUSSIA/INDONESIA

Claim: 200 bodies of coronavirus victims were dumped in a garbage truck in Russia

Facts: Video shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter claims to show the bodies of 200 coronavirus victims being dumped in a garbage truck in Russia.

Truth: According to AFP Fact Check, a reverse image search found a similar video, shot from a different angle, posted by the Russian website Mash on Facebook last September 4th. The publication's caption reads: “And such incredible scenes today are at the M. Vladimirsky Clinical Institute (MONIKI) in Moscow. Passersby thought that someone was stealing corpses from the local morgue, but everything turned out to be much less creepy. The shooting of the music video is in progress.” Russian TV channel REN TV Husky also reported on the topic and clarified that the footage was part of a new music clip of the rapper Husky.

SPAIN

Claim: UN admitted "Bill Gates vaccine" is causing polio outbreak in Africa

Facts: Posts circulating on Facebook claim that a "Bill Gates vaccine" caused an outbreak of polio in Africa.

The posts also claim that this information was confirmed by the UN.

Truth: According to the WHO, when someone receives an oral polio vaccine, the remnants of the pathogen are excreted in the feces. If there is no good sanitation in the area where the vaccination took place, the vaccine virus can spread among the population before dying. According to information from the Spanish fact-checking agency Newtral, WHO recognizes that between March and April of this year two isolated cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) occurred in Sudan, causing paralysis in a child of 3 and another of 4 years. The episode, however, does not represent an outbreak, as claimed in social media posts, let alone has any direct relation with the billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates.

LATIN AMERICA

Claim: Covid-19 pandemic did not reach Shanghai or Beijing

Facts: A post shared on Facebook claims that the new coronavirus "traveled thousands of kilometers from Wuhan" to cities like Milan, New York and São Paulo, but would not have reached Beijing or Shanghai, the two most important metropolises in China.

Truth: According to information from the fact-checking service of the Peruvian newspaper La República, the statement is false. Data from Johns Hopkins University show that more than 900 cases and 7 deaths were recorded in Shanghai, while Beijing had more than 900 confirmed cases and 9 deaths.

USA

Claim: Steve Jobs’ final words were an essay about wealth

Facts: An essay has been shared on social media about wealth and the meaning of life.

This life lesson is said to be Apple co-founder and former Chief Executive Steve Jobs’ last words before his death on October 5, 2011. The text’s first paragraph reads: “In other eyes, my life is the essence of success, but aside from work, I have a little joy, and in the end wealth is just a fact of life to which I am accustomed. At this moment, lying on the bed, sick and remembering all my life, I realize that all my recognition and wealth that I have is meaningless in the face of imminent death.”

Truth: As Reuters reports, there is no evidence that Steve Jobs said these words. Moreover, Jobs’ sister, Mona Simpson, shared his last words during the eulogy she gave on October 16, 2011 and said: “Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”

USA

Claim: Kamala Harris promoted guns saying “I like taking the guns early”

Facts: Several posts on social media claim that U.S. senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, said: “Take the guns first. Go through due process second, I like taking the guns early.”

Truth: As Reuters says, this quote has been misattributed since U.S President Donald Trump said it and not Kamala Harris. Trump said these words in February 2018 during a discussion at the White House on gun control after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

On her side, Kamala Harris promised when she was a presidential candidate, in April 2019, to give Congress 100 days to pass gun safety laws and thus has a rigid opinion related to guns, as Reuters reports.

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