BEATRICE DUPUY, ARIJETA LAJKA and AMANDA SEITZ
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:
CLAIM: Photo shows a Turkish soldier helping a child drink from a water bottle with the implication it was taken during the military offensive launched by Turkey last week in northern Syria.
THE FACTS: The photo was not taken during the recent offensive. It was taken in Turkey in 2015 by Associated Press photographer Lefteris Pitarakis. The photo was widely shared on Twitter this week, suggesting that the recent attack on U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria has not hurt civilians. “Not war, mercy,” one Twitter user wrote with the image in one post, which was accompanied by the hashtag #TurkishArmyForThePeace. Turkey began its assault after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. military withdrawal all 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria. The military action has resulted in the displacement of 160,000 civilians and many casualties, according to estimates Monday from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The photo was taken in southeastern Turkey on June 14, 2015, after thousands of Syrian refugees cut through a border fence and crossed into Turkey. The refugees were fleeing fighting between Syrian Kurds and jihadis.
CLAIM: Rep. Ilhan Omar protested outside Trump’s Oct. 10 campaign rally in Minneapolis.
THE FACTS: Omar was on a five-day trade trip to Morocco with Democratic Reps. Marcia Fudge, from Ohio, and Karen Bass, of California, when social media users began circulating photos and video suggesting that the congresswoman was involved in protests outside the Trump rally in Minneapolis. The scene was chaotic outside the Target Center where anti-Trump protesters filled the streets well before the president’s arrival. Andy Mannix, a reporter with The Star Tribune captured video of the scene, which included a woman wearing a headscarf and face covering. After he posted the video on social media, people shared it on Facebook and Twitter with the false claim that it showed Omar at the protests. Mannix said he hadn’t given any thought to the woman in the video at the time. However, after the footage and false claim began to circulate, he reached out to confirm it was not the representative. “It’s disappointing to see people invoking my journalism to make a false claim,” Mannix told the AP. Jeremy Slevin, Omar’s spokesman, confirmed that Omar was traveling at the time of the rally.
CLAIM: Photo shows U.S. soldiers on the ground in Syria “crying and visibly shaken saying they could stop this in 10 minutes but Trump won’t let them.”
THE FACTS: A photo post on Facebook falsely claimed that the image shows three U.S. soldiers crying after Trump’s withdrawal of American troops working with Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. The photo actually shows U.S. soldiers in Kuwait in 2011. In the image, three soldiers are seated, bending their heads toward their knees. The falsely labeled photo began circulating Wednesday as Russia moved to fill the void left by the U.S. troop withdrawal. The photo was taken by Lucas Jackson for Reuters on December 19, 2011. According to the caption, it was taken while soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, were waiting to pack their weapons for shipment back to the United States. They were part of the last U.S. military unit to depart Iraq.
CLAIM: A nighttime photo shows fires burning in mountains overlooking a shoreline during recent wildfires in Lebanon.
THE FACTS: As wildfires raged in parts of Lebanon and Syria this week, social media users began circulating photos on Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness about them. However, one of the photos — shared more than a thousand times on Twitter — claimed to be from Lebanon, but showed wildfires in Kalamos Attica, Greece. The photo, found in the Getty Images archives, was taken by photographer Wassilis Aswestopoulos, who shot it from the Grecian island of Euboea on Aug. 14, 2017. Aswestopoulos told the AP that the photo has been misused to represent other fires around the world including in Russia and California.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.