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

Arizona election audit did not find votes from tens of thousands of people who don’t exist

False claim: Articles posted on the internet and shared on social media claim that an election audit in Arizona found that 86,391 voters in Maricopa County “do not appear to exist.”

Truth:

  • Cyber Ninja, the company which ran the audit, claimed that 86,391 voters could not be found on Personator, a commercial database run by the company Melissa, but that this would not imply that these people do not exist.
  • At the end of the audit, Cyber Ninja recommended that the list be further validated and advised: “It is expected that most if not all of these individuals are in fact real people with a limited public record and commercial presence.”
  • In a statement to Reuters, Melissa said that being absent from the tool “is not an indicator that an individual does not exist” and that they estimate Personator covers “approximately 80% of U.S. adults.”

United Kingdom

Amazon parcels do not pose risk to cats

False claim: A post shared by Facebook users in the U.K.

claims that all Amazon boxes are sprayed with toxic pesticides to kill rodents, posing a risk to cats. The post is followed by an image of a cat with swollen red marks on its tongue.

Truth:

  • A reverse image search shows that the image of the cat was originally posted on social media in late 2020 by a woman named Alicia Plant, who claimed that her pet had suffered chemical burns after licking an Amazon box.
  • In a statement to Snopes, Plant said she had deleted the photo from social media and the matter was being handled between her and the retailer.
  • Also to Snopes, a spokesperson for Amazon said that the company did not have a policy of spraying its boxes with rodenticides or insecticides, and that it uses the same boxes that “all other manufacturers use.”

Latin America/Spain

China drone crash unrelated to Facebook outage

False claim: Facebook and Twitter users in Spain and Latin American countries have shared a video showing dozens of drones falling from the sky in China, along with the claim that the scene happened due to the global outage on WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook last Monday.

Truth:

  • Contrary to what the posts claim, the incident with the drones happened on October 1, 2021 during a light show at a shopping mall in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou.
  • In a statement to the China News Services, an organizer of the event said that "operation errors" might have led to the fall of the drones, and no injuries had been reported.

Brazil

It is false that Pfizer COVID vaccine is not recommended for children under 16

False claim: Posts shared by Facebook users in Brazil claim that the patient information leaflet for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine indicates that the vaccine is not recommended for children under 16.

Discuss this news on Eunomia

Truth:

  • According to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine’s patient information leaflet available on the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) website, the vaccine can be given to 12 to 15 year olds.
  • On June 2021, Pfizer vaccine was the first in Brazil to receive Anvisa's authorization to be given to children 12 years old and over, after the pharmaceutical company presented studies that indicated the vaccine's safety and effectiveness for this group.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine it’s already being used in children aged 12 to 15 in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and E.U. countries.

New Zealand

Video showing New Zealand prime minister ‘smoking crack’ is a deepfake

Fake claim: Social media users have shared a video that allegedly shows New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smoking crack.

Truth:

  • A reverse image search shows that the video shared on social media was originally published on October 9, 2020, by a YouTube channel called Genuine Fake, with the title “Jacinda Ardern Smokes Marijuana.”
  • The Genuine Fake channel is famous for making deepfake videos –a technique that uses artificial intelligence to paste a person's facial features onto someone else's body in videos and images– of New Zealand politicians and celebrities.
  • The original video, into which Ardern's face was digitally inserted, was published by YouTuber Kush Evilia on May 6, 2019.

Kenya

Image does not show Christian missionary executed in Syria

False claim: A photograph of a smiling man with a noose tied around his neck has been shared on Facebook profiles in Kenya alongside the claim that the image shows a Christian missionary sentenced to death in Syria.

“He was sentenced to death in Syria for preaching the gospel and is laughing to the gallows because he knows his time to meet Christ Jesus is coming,” reads the caption of some of the posts.

Truth:

  • A reverse image search shows that the man in the image is actually Majid Kavousifar, an Iranian who was sentenced to death in 2007 for murdering a judge.
  • Media reports published at the time show images of Kavousifar bidding farewell to his relatives who attended his public hanging in Tehran on August 2, 2007.
  • At least 267 people were hanged in 2020 in Iran, where executions remain a legal form of punishment.