The world of news is complex - and false stories and images are often widely shared on social media. Blasting News’s editorial team spots the most popular hoaxes and misleading information every week to help you discern truth from falsehood. Here are some of the most shared false claims of this week, of which none are legit.

USA

Claim: Meghan Markle was paid $7 million for her interview with Oprah

Facts: Posts shared on Facebook claim that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry's wife, was paid $7 million for her interview with Oprah Winfrey, aired on CBS on March 7, 2021.

Truth: At the beginning of the interview with Oprah, Meghan Markle makes it clear that she was not getting paid for the interview.

Speaking to Reuters, Chelsea Hettrick, a spokesperson for Harpo Productions, the company that produced the interview, said: “We can confirm that there was no payment of any kind to Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or any of their charities for the interview or licensing of footage.”

USA

Claim: Five-year-olds can take sex-changing hormones

Facts: Posts shared on Facebook and Instagram claim children as young as five years old can “take hormones” and “change sex.” “Can I have a cigarette?

No, you’re 5. Can I have a beer? No, you’re 5. Can I drive the car? No, you’re 5. Can I take hormones and change my sex? Sure! You know best!,” reads the caption of the posts, followed by an image of a child talking to his father sitting in an armchair and reading a newspaper.

Truth: Contrary to what the posts claim, there is no medical guidance in the U.S.

that supports five-year-olds taking hormones or undergoing sex-change procedures. According to a 2016 report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the only recommended gender-related transition for prepubescent children is a social transition, where a child can change aspects like their name, clothes, pronouns, or hairstyles.

USA

Claim: Image shows the first photograph of a sunset on Mars

Facts: Image shared on social media claims to show the first photograph of a sunset on Mars, taken in March 2021.

Truth: The image shared on social media is actually an artistic depiction created by illustrator Mark A. Garlick. After learning that his work was being shared on the internet with an incorrect caption, Garlick published the following message on his Twitter account: “This ARTWORK is doing the rounds on Twitter, after some idiot removed my name from it and then labelled it 'First photo of a sunset on Mars'. It's bullshit.” According to Snopes, the first image of a sunset on Mars was recorded in 1976, by NASA's Viking 1 mission.

Brazil

Claim: Video shows children fleeing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in Africa

Facts: Facebook posts shared a video of children running and screaming at a school in Africa, followed by captions stating that the children were fleeing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.

Truth: Contrary to what the posts claim, the video was recorded in May 2019 and shows a mayhem caused by a “teargas blast” at a community secondary school in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Portugal

Claim: Bill Gates advocated population reduction through forced vaccination

Facts: Posts shared on Facebook claim that American billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates has suggested reducing the world population through forced vaccination.

The posts feature an image of a woman holding a June 2011 edition of The Sovereign Independent newspaper, which features a photo of Bill Gates and the following headline: “Depopulation through vaccines: the zero carbon solution.”

Truth: The Sovereign Independent is known for spreading numerous conspiracy theories. As for the alleged statement by Bill Gates, it is based on a TED Talk he participated in February 2010 and in which he said: “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That's headed up to about nine billion. Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by, perhaps, 10 or 15 percent. But we see an increase of 1.3 percent”.

Therefore, it is clear that Bill Gates was talking about reducing the population growth by “10 to 15%”, and not the world’s population.

Latin America

Claim: Coronavirus variants were created to hide deaths from COVID-19 vaccines

Facts: Facebook posts claim that variants of the new coronavirus are, in fact, an invented excuse to hide the deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines.

Truth: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all vaccines available in the world today for emergency use against COVID-19 are safe and effective. The CDC also states that there is no record of any death caused by one of vaccines in use. Regarding the variants, the CDC says that viruses constantly change through mutations and that it is normal for new variants to appear over time.

New Zealand

Claim: Video shows face mask from China containing tracking chip

Facts: Video shared on Facebook claims to show a face mask with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking chip. According to the posts, masks made in China “often contain RFID chips.”

Truth: According to AFP, the video was originally published in September 2020 by a Greek satirical group. “Of course this is trolling! The chip is a common NFC that we put on the mask for the video… Obviously the need for conspiracy theories is greater than logic,” said the group in the original post.

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