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: Amish religious communities have not been affected by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic

Facts: Several posts shared on Facebook claim that Amish religious communities haven't been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those posts show an image of a masked woman asking two Amish men “Why isn't Covid affecting you people.” “We don't have TV”, replies one of the men. Other posts claim: “6 months later and the Amish are all still alive and Covid free. Their cure = No TV.”

Truth: As AFP reports, the claim is false.

Allen Hoover, an administrator at Parochial Medical Center in Lancaster County - home to one of the largest Amish communities in the U.S. -, told AFP that the Amish community “have experienced a much higher than average Covid-19 infection rate,” because they “are such a tight-knit community, and because they have largely ignored all safety protocols among themselves.” Amish communities also avoid to report several COVID-19 cases due to wariness of outside “meddling,” Hoover said.

USA

Claim: Photo shows U.S.

Democratic Representatives wearing outfits emblazoned with swastikas

Facts: An image shared hundreds of times on Facebook shows some U.S. Democratic Representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, wearing red garments featuring a yellow swastika with a star. “There you have it folks! A group of communist nazis,” reads the caption.

Truth: The photo has been doctored. A reverse image search shows that the image was originally posted on Twitter by Cori Bush on January 3, 2021. The original photo shows the same Democratic representatives wearing the same clothes, but without the swastika symbols. Also, the clothes worn by Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Tlaib in the original photo have different colors than those in the altered image.

USA

Claim: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said white people are racist

Facts: Several social media users shared a quote believed to be from U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, saying: “If he’s white, he’s going to be racist.”

Truth: According to Reuters, the quote probably could have been taken from a Vanity Fair 2018 headline: “‘He’s still going to be racist if it’s a white nominee’: Can Kamala Harris, non-identity politician, find her way in an identity-politics moment?” However, the quote does not come from Kamala Harris, but shares the thoughts of journalist Chris Smith. Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Vice President, told Reuters Harris never said the phrase that has been shared online.

USA

Claim: Kamala Harris plans to shut down the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and take away soldier welfare, giving the money to refugee families

Facts: A quote attributed to U.S.

Vice President Kamala Harris has been shared on social media and reads: “The United States government cannot continue to pay for the every need of what has become a special class of citizen. Veterans are equal to us, not better than. Veterans Affairs coddles them. It creates a dependency upon us which is not doing these former soldiers any good. They need to learn to live on their own two feet and be responsible adults. The easiest way to assist them on this journey is to cut them off. Within these next four years, we will be shuttering the VA, taking away soldier welfare. The money saved will go to better use in assisting refugee families. These poor folks seek asylum with us and need a boost and it is our responsibility as a nation to provide it.

So here’s a message to the soldier boys. Get a job.”

Truth: The quote was originally written by a satirical website called America's Last Line of Defense, in an article titled “Kamala Who Hates Army Wants to Stop VA,” as Reuters reports. Additionally, Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Vice President, told Reuters Harris never said this.

France

Claim: China is building a time machine

Facts: A rumor has been shared on social media saying that the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) had teamed up with a private firm named Shanxi Ruitai Technology to design and build a time machine. The information spread after the release of a dubious PowerPoint presentation, showing a “Space-time Tunnel Generation Experimental Device.” The time machine is said to be “approved and praised” by the physics Nobel laureate Gao Kun.

Truth: Shanxi Ruitai Technology is a company that has only been in existence since December 2020 and has denied any involvement in the project. Moreover, the Nobel Prize winner Gao Kun simply never existed. Finally, the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of High Energy Physics issued a statement denying its involvement in the project.

World

Claim: The clearest photo of the Sun's surface was released by NASA

Facts: Publications in English, French and Arabic have been shared online in Pakistan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Morocco, Libya and Iraq.

It shows a picture with the caption: “Clearest photo of the Sun's surface published by NASA.”

Truth: A reverse image search made by AFP shows that the picture was first posted by American photographer Jason Guenzel in his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts on January 12, 2021, under the caption “Magnetic Sun.” Part of the caption of the posts reads: “This session on the Sun was marred by sub-par atmospheric conditions leaving a loss of contrast and detail. I took this opportunity to heavily process the resulting image into a stylized rendition of the visible surface of the sun.” Karen C. Fox, a NASA communications officer, said the photo is not from the U.S. space agency.

Thailand

Claim: Photo shows protesters demonstrating on a street in Myanmar after military coup

Facts: A photo shared thousands of times on Facebook claims to show protesters lying on the street during a demonstration in Myanmar against the military coup that took place in the Southeast Asian country on February 1, 2021.

Truth: A reverse image search on Google shows that the photo was originally taken on June 4, 2020, by photographer Matt Freed, during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Pittsburgh.

South Korea

Claim: South Korea's Prime Minister threatens to arrest citizens who refuse COVID-19 vaccine

Facts: Posts on Facebook share a screenshot of an alleged article published by the South Korean daily newspaper Financial News stating that South Korea's Prime Minister has threatened to arrest citizens who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Truth: In a statement to AFP, a spokesperson for the South Korean Prime Minister's Secretariat said: “He didn't make [any] such comment and the claim [on Facebook] is false.” In a statement published on its website, Financial News denied that it had published the article shared on social media and said that “some people have maliciously doctored our report and distributed it.”

Brazil

Claim: Study indicates that long-term mask use contributes to advanced stage lung cancer

Facts: Posts shared on Facebook and WhatsApp claim that a recent study published in Cancer Discovery magazine found that the prolonged use of face masks creates a moist environment that cultivates microbes and contributes to advanced stage lung cancer.

Truth: Held between March 2013 and October 2018, therefore, prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the study analyzes the causal effects of lower airway dysbiosis on lung cancer progression in mice and does not mention mask-wearing. Alerted on Twitter about the rumor that was spreading on social media, Dr. Leopoldo Segal, one of the study's authors, said: “Thanks for letting me know. This is outrageous! It is not a misinterpretation of the study but rather a malicious act to push for a baseless and ignorant anti-mask agenda.”

Latin America/Spain

Claim: Time magazine reveals plot against Trump in 2020 U.S. presidential election

Facts: Posts shared on Facebook and Twitter claim that Time magazine revealed in an article published on February 4, 2021, entitled “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election,” that there was a secret plot to rig the 2020 U.S.

presidential election and give Democrat Joe Biden the victory.

Truth: Contrary to what the rumors say, Time magazine’s article don’t say anything about a plot to undermine Donald Trump's re-election. The text, in fact, talks about “an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans.” “The handshake between business and labor was just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election–an extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted,” reads an excerpt from the article.

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