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.

USA

Claim: Former U.S President Barack Obama was arrested for espionage after “communicating classified information” to Chinese Intelligence

Facts: An article published on November 28th by a Canadian conservative news website called The Conservative Beaver claims that Barack Obama was arrested on espionage charges. The beginning of the article reads: “Barack Obama, a former President of the US, was arrested on Nov. 28, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a business partner of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).” The article was shared 6,000 times.

Truth: The press release shared with this article has been fabricated. The original document was shared by the Department of Justice on the arrest of a former CIA official named Alexander Yuk Ching Ma. The Conservative website changed the name of the charged spy arrested on August 14th 2020, for Obama’s name. The accomplice’s relation to the charged person has also been changed from “a relative” to “a business partner.” The document does not implicate Barack Obama.

USA

Claim: The virus committee created by the U.S.

President-elect Joe Biden does not think people should live past 75 years old

Facts: Posts have been shared on social media claiming: “AARP endorsed Biden. Biden’s virus Committee doesn’t think living past 75 is worth living. Will you renew your AARP membership since AARP says if you are past 75 you should just die and go away.”

Truth: The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which provides services and help for people over the age of 50 through a paid membership, declared to Reuters: “Since the early days of the pandemic, AARP has warned policymakers on all sides that rationing of care based on age or disability is discriminatory.  Older people are not political pawns or less worthy to receive care or a vaccine than anyone else.” AARP spokesman added: “We have not endorsed candidates Biden or Trump or anyone else.

AARP is a nonpartisan non-profit organization,” Reuters reports. Regarding the accusations made on Biden, they are not true. Biden’s website shares his seven-point plan to tackle COVID-19 which includes “Protect Older Americans and Others at High Risk.”

United Kingdom

Claim: Injecting RNA when doing the Coronavirus vaccine into a person alters the DNA of a human cell

Facts: Posts on social media claim that the Coronavirus vaccine alters the DNA of a human cell.

This claim follows the announcement of the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use starting from next week. Care home residents and their carers will be first in line to be vaccinated, the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has confirmed.

Truth: Some of the candidate vaccines, including the UK approved one developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, use a fragment of the virus’ genetic material called messenger RNA that produces a protein. The body uses it to build its own copies so the immune system can respond by producing antibodies fighting this protein. “Injecting RNA into a person doesn’t do anything to the DNA of a human cell,” said Professor Jeffrey Almond of Oxford University, reports the BBC.

FRANCE

Claim: French Physicist Etienne Klein denounced in a conference the uselessness of PCR tests

Facts: Etienne Klein, Physicist and Doctor of Philosophy of Science, Director of Research at the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), demonstrated in a conference the uselessness of PCR tests.

Truth: The video has been doctored. Klein, during his speech, questioned the reliability of tests, false positives, and the misunderstanding that the general public may have. However, he is not talking about PCR tests as part of the pandemic. He precises it at the beginning of his speech saying: “I take an example that has nothing to do with the current situation.

I am not telling you that the example I am taking is the explanation of what is happening today. I am doing a thought experiment, that is to say, I imagine a situation.” This part has been cut from the video that is circulating.

ITALY

Claim: A photo shared by the former Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, shows Pelé showing respect to late Maradona on his grave

Facts: On November 27th, former Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini shared a picture on Facebook to show his respect to late Maradona who died on November 25th.

The image shows the Brazilian former professional footballer Pelé grieving and crying by Maradona’s grave. Salvini wrote: “A gorgeous picture. Good night my friend, I love you.”

Truth: The picture used by Salvini has been circulating online but is not real. The original picture is one from different stock photo websites such as iStockphoto, Getty Images or PeopleImages, as a reverse image search proves. The photo has been doctored to show warmer colors and Pelé’s face was added.

Italy

Claim: Receipt Lottery allows government to monitor consumers’ buying habits

Facts: Two Italian politicians who lead the country's two main right-wing parties, Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d'Italia) and Matteo Salvini (Lega), posted on their social media accounts that the Receipt Lottery (Lotteria degli Scontrini in Italian, a new lottery system created to combat tax evasion: for each euro spent on purchases, participants will receive a virtual ticket) allows the government to monitor participant’s buying habits, limiting their freedom.

Truth: On the Italian Lottery website it is emphasized that the system will not monitor purchases made by participants. According to the company, the system will only register how much was spent, how the payment was made (in cash or credit card) and the lottery code linked to each participant. Therefore, the government will not collect data on what people are buying.

HONG KONG

Claim: Photo shows Trump crying after losing US election

Facts: Posts shared thousands of times on Twitter and other Chinese social platforms, such as Weibo, claim to show an image of Donald Trump "crying in public" after losing this year's presidential election.

Truth: The claim is false. The image was actually taken by AFP photographer Nicholas Kamm on July 15, 2020, therefore, before the presidential election. Also, in the original image Trump is not crying. The tear that appears in the image shared on social media has been digitally manipulated.

China

Claim: Image shows Australian soldier killing Afghan child

Facts: A post on Twitter by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, shows an image of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife around the neck of a child with a lamb in his arms. “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, call for holding them accountable,” reads the message that follows the post.

Truth: According to information from several fact-checking outlets, the shared image was digitally manipulated. In response to Lijian's post, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, demanded an apology from the Chinese government and said Beijing should be "ashamed" for sharing a "disgusting" image. Lijian's post came after the Australian Defense Force announced it had found "reliable information" that 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murder of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013.

Argentina/Colombia/Spain

Claim: Undertaker who took photo with Maradona's body found dead

Facts: A tweet published by an alleged account of the Argentine newspaper Clarín sports desk, and shared thousands of times, states that a funeral home employee who took a photo with the body of late soccer player Diego Armando Maradona inside the coffin, and was later fired, was found dead in Argentina.

A second post from the same account shows a video in which police officers are seen removing a man's body from a dumpster.

Truth: According to information from the Argentine fact check service Chequeado, the information is false. Firstly, the Twitter account that published the viral post is not the original Clarín Deportes account, which has the blue verified stamp. The original name of the profile that published the rumor is @AdictBarcelona. The video shared in the second post was published last March 16, 2020, by the SM Noticias website and is related to a body found inside a dumpster in the city of San Martín, in the province of Buenos Aires.

Peru

Claim: Johns Hopkins Hospital says cancer can be cured with strong immune system

Facts: Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook and attributed to the Johns Hopkins Hospital announces the existence of alternative treatments for cancer, in addition to chemotherapy.

“After many years of telling people that chemotherapy is the only way to treat and eliminate cancer, Johns Hopkins Hospital is starting to tell people that there are alternatives,” reads part of the message. The post also highlights that, instead of chemotherapy, a strong immune system is needed to destroy cancer cells and prevent the multiplication and formation of tumors.

Truth: According to the fact check service of the Peruvian newspaper La República, this information is false. The newspaper points out that the same message has already been shared on several other occasions and that, back in 2009, Johns Hopkins Hospital denied any relation to the content of the message, which at the time was shared by email.

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