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.


Picture of explosion near the Pentagon was AI-generated

False claim: Social media users around the world have shared a picture of a column of smoke on May 22, 2023 accompanied by the claim that the image was shot after an explosion near the Pentagon in Washington D.C.


  • After the claim went viral on social media, the Twitter account of the Arlington County Fire Department, where the Pentagon building is located, posted the following message on the morning of May 22: “There is NO explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation, and there is no immediate danger or hazards to the public.”
  • On that same morning, D.C.-based photographer Andrew Leyden streamed live images from the Pentagon on his YouTube channel, showing that there was no sign of smoke or fire at the site.
  • In a post on his Twitter account, journalist Nick Waters, justice and accountability lead for online investigations group Bellingcat, published: “Confident that this picture claiming to show an ‘explosion near the pentagon’ is AI generated. Check out the frontage of the building, and the way the fence melds into the crowd barriers. There's also no other images, videos or people posting as first hand witnesses.”


European study did not find that the COVID-19 vaccines cause long-term brain damage

False claim: Social media users around the world have shared a screenshot of an article with the following headline: “European Study Concludes COVID Jabs Cause ‘Long-Term Brain Damage’”.


  • A web search shows that the article shared on social media was originally published by The People's Voice, a website famous for spreading misinformation and which has previously operated under the names News Punch and Your News Wire.
  • The article indicates as the source of the information a preprint study by researchers from Germany and Denmark, titled “SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Accumulation in the Skull-Meninges-Brain Axis: Potential Implications for Long-Term Neurological Complications in post-COVID-19” and published on the bioRxiv platform on April 5, 2023.
  • Neuroscientist Ali Ertürk, director of the Institute of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at the Helmholtz Center in Munich and one of the authors of the study, told the Associated Press: “We have done zero experiments using vaccine, and we have shown and claim zero side effects of the vaccine.”
  • Ertürk also clarifies that the study revealed “the accumulation of the spike protein in the skull marrow, brain meninges, and brain parenchyma” after COVID-19 infection.


Target’s Pride collection does not feature “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for kids

False claim: Social media users in the United States have shared the claim that Target launched as part of its Pride collection a “tuck-friendly” bathing suit for children.

The posts are accompanied by images of the product label, highlighting its ability to supposedly tuck male genitalia, a feature aimed at transgender women and non-gender-conforming people.


  • Based on images shared by users on social media, a search on Target's website brings up a swimsuit listed as “Pride Adult One Piece Colorblock Swimsuit.” The page also lists the product as available in “general adult sizing.”
  • In a statement to Reuters and Associated Press, a spokesperson for Target said its “tuck-friendly” swimsuits are only available for adults.


Airplane was not responsible for the floods in Emilia-Romagna

False claim: Social media users in Italy have shared the claim that the recent floods that hit the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, leaving at least 14 people dead and more than 15,000 displaced, were intentionally caused by a phenomenon known as “cloud seeding,” in which airplanes are used to release chemical substances into clouds and induce rainfall.

The posts state that between May 14 and 17, a Beech B200 Super King Air aircraft, registration F-JGFA, belonging to the French company Aero Sotravia, made “strange” flights, at low altitude and lasting more than 5 hours in areas of the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Piedmont. Some of the posts feature screenshots of the aircraft's trajectories recorded on Flightradar24, a platform that allows tracking flights around the world in real time.


  • Asked on May 10, 2023 by a user about the alleged strange flight pattern of the Aero Sotravia aircraft over Italian territory in that period, the official Flightradar24 Twitter account replied: “Television relay aircraft for the Giro d'Italia.”
  • An analysis of the stages of the Giro d'Italia, Italy's most famous cycling competition, with the routes of flight ASR153 recorded on Flightradar24 indicate that the locations match.


Picture does not show Pakistan Foreign Minister at memorial for Indian soldiers

False claim: Social media users in Pakistan have shared a picture of the country's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari standing in front of a wreath, accompanied by the claim that the image was allegedly recorded during a visit to a memorial honoring Indian soldiers killed during the Kargil war, which involved India and Pakistan between May and July 1999.


  • A reverse image search shows that Zardari shared the same image in a post on his official Twitter account on February 21, 2023.
  • The text of the post reads: “Had a tour of Seimas, Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania & laid a wreath at the Memorial of those who laid down their lives in the Struggle for the Independence of Lithuania.”
  • On February 22, Pakistan's English-language newspaper The Express Tribune published the same photo in a report by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency about Zardari's official visit to Lithuania.