1. The Paris attacks weren’t planned on a Playstation, and a Twitter account didn’t predict them — among other things. As is not unusual in breaking news situations, a lot of misinformation went viral in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks last week. We rounded that up in full on Monday, so I won’t rehash it again — but see this post on the rumors from the attacks’ immediate aftermath.
2. Police in the United States are not warning anyone about specific, credible threats of terrorism. In the wake of last Friday’s attacks in Paris — and a series of jihadist videos threatening targets in the United States — many social media users began sharing messages of warning “from” the FBI or local police. While rumors of such warnings have circulated widely, however — from upstate New York to Tennessee, and even further afield — the White House has said there is currently no credible threat to the United States. (Which presumably means that minor police departments aren’t going rogue and posting ominous, stay-at-home messages.)
3. Syrian refugees aren’t flooding unchecked into the United States. Two accounts about the refugee masses arriving in America went viral on Facebook this week: The first claims that several hundred have been resettled in the Winston-Salem area; the second purports that a group of 10,000 men recently arrived in New Orleans.
The items have fanned fears that an attacker, like the ones in Paris, could arrive in the United States disguised as a refugee — a fear that’s already pretty illogical, as we’ll get to presently. But both items have been taken out of context: The story about Syrians arriving in Winston-Salem was published 14 months ago, a fact so many readers missed that editors at the Winston-Salem Journal appended a note to that effect; and the picture of men “in New Orleans” was actually taken on Sept. 3 in Budapest.
On top of that, thousands upon thousands of refugees aren’t just flooding in — that’s just not how the system works. In fact, since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, the United States has only taken in 2,200 people. The system prioritizes women and children, which means that only 2 percent of all refugees are single males of combat age. And as The Post’s Carol Morello has explained in some depth, there’s a very difficult and thorough vetting process: It typically takes between a year and a half to two years for refugees to be admitted.
4. The Islamic State is not tracking future victims through Facebook’s French flag filter. A series of bizarre warnings circulated on Facebook this week, all implying that the Islamic State would target people who adopted Facebook’s French flag transparency.
“DO NOT put the France flag as your profile picture, I’m warning you all,” one message reads. “The Isis will find you and kill you and your family.”
This is pretty obviously impossible: millions of people have adopted the filter all over the world, and Facebook provides no way to search for or index just the people who have used it. From a strategic perspective, it’s also really stupid. The Islamic State’s goal is to sow as much fear as possible, which is why analysts think the group has begun targeting large, random groups of civilians. Seeking out individual, low-profile people doesn’t accomplish that objective; although arguably, by reposting the bogus, panicked warning, a lot of people are furthering the Islamic State’s ends.
5. A viral video does not show “Muslims around the world celebrat[ing] the Islamic victory in Paris.” The clip, posted to Facebook by a guy using the name “Jean-Baptiste Kim,” actually shows a bunch of guys cheering a cricket victory in London. (Kim regularly posts misleading photos and videos of this nature: His entire feed is basically an ongoing, openly racist screed again Muslims.)
“I live in Tooting [a neighborhood in South London], and I was there when these celebrations happened in 2009,” wrote one commenter on YouTube, where the video has also appeared. “It was one of the most joyful sights we’ve seen in this area in years.”
6. Japan does not bar Muslims from becoming citizens, among other things. In fact, of the 10 claims made by a viral meme about how Japan has kept “Islam at bay,” not a single one is even sort of on-base. Japan doesn’t use religion as a factor when determining citizenship or residency, and the country doesn’t restrict Muslims from practicing their religion or speaking Arabic. Since 2013, Japan has actually relaxed visa restrictions for Malaysians and Indonesians, who are overwhelmingly Muslim.
“It is disturbing that such an email is circulating,” Glenda Roberts, a professor of cultural anthropology, told Politifact. “These claims are simply ridiculous.”
7. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not drop a blockbuster quote about terrorism. On Nov. 17, the RT News Anchor Remi Maalouf attributed a quote to Putin that’s since been RTed and reshared many thousands of times:
… as one of her followers quickly pointed out, however, Putin never said that — it’s a version of a popular line from the 2004 movie “Man on Fire.” Maalouf has since apologized and deleted the tweet, explaining that she saw it on Facebook and reposted it without fact-checking.
8. The people in YouTuber Adrian Gee’s “social experiments” are actually actors. Australian YouTube creator Adrian Gee has amassed quite a following around his “pranks” and “social experiments.” The most popular of these, posted two weeks ago, involves Gee standing in the street, pretending to be blind, and asking strangers if they can make change for a $5 bill. The trick is that Gee is actually holding out $50, so strangers’ reactions (telling him vs. giving correct change vs. pocketing the $50) presumably say something about how honest they are. Alas, Gee himself is not particularly honest: As the Australian TV show “Today Tonight” revealed in a pretty awkward interview, none of the people were actually passersby — they were all paid actors. Let this serve as yet another reminder that many of YouTube’s best “experiments” are rigged. Remember “Drunk Girl in Public”…?
9. No one is dead after eating Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie. A story that claimed otherwise — and that has been shared some 180,000 times — appeared on Report Quickly, a “satire” site. If you’re still worried about the pie at Walmart, however, you can make it yourself: The Post’s Joe Yonan dug up the recipe in LaBelle’s 1999 cookbook.
Did we miss any other notable fake stuff this week? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org — or stay tuned until next week, because surely some more shenanigans will go down in the meantime.
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