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We’re Keeping A Running List Of Hoaxes And Misleading Posts About The Nationwide Police Brutality Protests

As thousands protest the death of George Floyd, BuzzFeed News is debunking the hoaxes and disinformation that have been spreading online.

Last updated on June 5, 2020, at 8:35 a.m. ET

Posted on May 29, 2020, at 2:40 p.m. ET

The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer who used a knee chokehold on him, has sparked protests all over the country. As they gained traction, so did online hoaxes and disinformation about them. BuzzFeed News is keeping a running list of the false and misleading information.

Hi. I'm keeping track of any disinformation, hoaxes, or out-of-context photos and videos about the Minneapolis protests. If you see something, send it to me. My DMs are open and my email is jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com

Before passing on any online rumor, take the time to verify it. This can be done by checking how recently an account has been created, keeping a close eye on information from news outlets, or searching online to find another source.

How to read this post:

UNVERIFIED: Claims that have no concrete evidence either confirming or refuting them. This type of claim has either no sources or no evidence, and is based on conjecture with no original reporting behind it. Treat this kind of information with healthy skepticism and wait to see how it develops.

MISLEADING: Posts that take a real occurrence out of context, for example miscaptioning a video or photo from the protests. This can also include images that are presented at a deceptive angle or descriptions of events that cherry-pick facts. Avoid spreading or engaging with this type of post.

FALSE: Reporters or reliable sources with direct knowledge have contradicted this information on the record, or it is refuted by unimpeachable evidence. Examples include images or videos filmed at a different time or location but presented as recent, demonstrably false claims, and websites masquerading as news outlets publishing untrue information.

1. TikTok is not blocking hashtags related to Black Lives Matter and George Floyd. The company said it's a bug affecting "words at random." A search of TikTok confirms that the issue has since been fixed.

Twitter / @revengedja


2. A photo showing a McDonald's on fire is not from the Minnesota protests. It shows a restaurant that burned down in Pennsylvania in 2016. The account looks like a news organization but describes itself as a parody account in the bio.

Twitter / @breaking9ll

3. There are unverified claims that a man filmed smashing the windows of an auto business in Minnesota is a member of the local police department. The St. Paul Police Department denied that the man in the video is the employee identified. As of now, the man's identity remains unconfirmed. We will continue to monitor for updates.

Twitter

4. This tweet, claiming that the poster's brother went missing amid the protests in Minnesota, is false. It garnered over 30,000 retweets, and the person running the account later admitted they don't know the man in the photo.

Twitter

The person behind the account told BuzzFeed News in a direct message that they did not expect the tweet to get so much traction.

“I apologize to everyone that I potentially worried or caused any work to help find my ‘missing brother’ and that I never intended it to get such a wide range of people finding it from the start of my tweet,” he said. He declined to reveal his identity except to say he's 16 years old and living in the US.

5. This is another false post about someone's relative going missing in Minnesota. The man pictured is the late Charles Chamblis, a Minnesota photographer who captured "the best of black life" in the state, according to the Star Tribune.

Twitter / Star Tribune

6. This video does not show an explosion inside a police precinct in Minneapolis. It shows the explosion that occurred in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin in 2015.

Twitter / YouTube

7. This does not show a fire at a Walmart in Minneapolis. It shows a burning apartment building in that city.

Twitter / @rntk___

8. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who used a knee chokehold on George Floyd, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. This tweet falsely claims he was only placed in protective custody.

Twitter / @egyptianweeknd

9. This image is from the Ferguson protests of 2014, not Minneapolis. It was known as the "peace train" and was not stolen from a mall then, either.

Twitter / @kekenopalmertho

10. After CNN journalists were arrested live on TV, a tweet from the Minnesota State Patrol claimed they didn't know they were members of the media, despite the reporters saying so. The video of the arrest clearly shows they said they were with CNN.

Twitter

11. A Minnesota TV reporter did not get caught playing "fake gunshot sounds" during a peaceful protest. A viral Twitter video showed KSTP reporter Richard Reeve being confronted by protesters who accused him of disrupting the event with gunshot sounds. But the station says that's not what happened.

@dyllyp / _eden______

A statement issued by KSTP news director Kirk Varner said Reeve was filming the peaceful protest on his phone when he captured what he thought was the sound of gunshots.

"Wanting to confirm the sound he heard, he went to play back the video on his cell phone which indeed shows an individual shooting into the air," Varner said, adding that a group of protesters approached Reeve as he was reviewing the footage.

The station's statement includes the footage shot by Reeve, which does show a man in the street firing several shots from a handgun.

This version of events is also supported by the video shared on Twitter of Reeve speaking with protesters. At the very end, he lifts up his phone to show the footage and says, "This is what I saw."

The station said other eyewitnesses confirmed that Reeves was reviewing protest footage filmed on his phone.

"There have been false accusations that our reporter was playing the sound of the gunshots to upset the crowd, and that is simply not true," Varner said. "Also not true is that the sound of gunshots was falsely used in our reporting."

The station chose not to air the gunshots "because we felt it ultimately did not contribute to our efforts to impartially portray the events that were happening in a rapidly developing situation."

12. The Minnesota Freedom Fund is warning about imitators accepting donations. The organization's real website is minnesotafreedomfund.org

Hey y'all, there is a fraudulent Venmo account circulating with our name on it. At this time, the Minnesota Freedom Fund DOES NOT HAVE A VENMO. Do NOT send funds there.

13. Makeup is not adequate protection against facial recognition technology, despite claims made in a viral tweet.

Detected 3 out of 4 with @faceplusplus. That's just a still- not a video stream or enrolment station. CV Dazzle is performance art, it hasn't worked in years. https://t.co/ICJHCvf7Qh

14. This account looks like it belongs to a CBS reporter, but it's fake and has been spreading disinformation about the protests. It uses the name of Eric Sevareid, a legendary reporter who passed away in 1991.

Twitter/Screenshot

15. There is no proof that members of the National Guard depicted in the videos are underage, despite viral claims saying they are. "All personnel mobilized with the Georgia National Guard are of legal age," a National Guard spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Twitter/Screenshots

16. A video posted by Twitter user Max Blumenthal falsely implied that a man in it was an undercover police officer and not a CNN reporter. The man's colleague confirmed that he does, indeed, work for CNN.

Max Blumenthal decides this guy who tells him he is a CNN reporter is an undercover cop acting a provocateur. 23k RT’s. Complete disinformation. CNN head of comms: those are my colleagues, I’ve worked with them for years.

17. Websites masquerading as news outlets are spreading false information about the Black Lives Matter protests.

Screenshots

If a website doesn't have reporters' names or a comprehensive "about" or "contact us" page, look for another source for the articles it has published.

Screenshots

18. This video of a man kicking a gas canister away in midair is from protests in Lebanon last year, not recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US, a reverse image search shows.

Screenshot

19. Fake images of an "antifa playbook" are circulating across social media. The images are from at least 2015.

15/An interesting piece of disinformation that has been circulating in QAnon is this image. Which is recycled disinformation from 2015 claiming "Soros paid protestors to riot in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Grey" https://t.co/BSJZ1W70gI

20. This video is from last month, not this weekend. It depicts a California police officer pinning a 14-year-old boy to the ground, BuzzFeed News reported at the time.

Twitter/Screenshot

21. This description of a graphic video of a man being beaten up is misleading, Dallas police told BuzzFeed News. The man in the video is in the hospital in stable condition and was not defending a store, they said.

Twitter/Screenshots

"The victim went to the 2200 block of N. Lamar Street (House of Blues) carrying a machete to allegedly protect his neighborhood from protesters," a Dallas police spokesperson said in a statement. "The victim confronted protesters while holding the machete and was subsequently assaulted by the protesters. He was transported to an area hospital where he remains in stable condition. This remains an ongoing investigation."

22. Organizers are warning that an unassociated email address is being used to lure people into protests that were not organized by Black Lives Matter Atlanta.

🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨 Any e-mail coming from BLM@Gmail.com is NOT coming from @Mvmnt4BlkLives or allies in ATL. Please be mindful that movement is being infiltrated at the moment and people are being lured into unsafe environments. For info on the week of action in GA, follow @AJustGeorgia.

23. No, a protester wasn't trying to board a bus with an ATM. The story was a prank from last year.

Screenshots / Twitter

24. The man on the right is not Derek Chauvin, Snopes reports. He is an online troll and vocal supporter of President Trump named Jonathan Riches.

Screenshot/Twitter

25. This protester in Chicago did not steal a police horse. He goes by the name Dread Head Cowboy and is known in the community for riding his horse in the city and surrounding areas.

Twitter / YouTube

He shared several videos and livestreams that show him riding around downtown Chicago during recent protests. In one, he jokingly yelled that he'd stolen the horse from the police, which caused some to think he was being serious.

26. The Oakland Zoo says no tigers have escaped, despite online rumors of a tiger wandering the streets.

Tigers are all accounted for at the Oakland Zoo. They just checked and confirmed.

27. An anonymous account created Monday is sharing a fake photo, claiming it's of the protests. It's hiding the replies that correctly say the image is from the TV show Designated Survivor.

Twitter/Screenshots

28. The context in which this video is being shared is misleading. There's no indication that the man being arrested is an FBI agent. The poster of one of the earliest versions of the video also said it was filmed a year ago.

Screenshots/Twitter/Instagram

29. Reports of an internet blackout in Washington, DC, are unverified. According to NetBlocks, a nonprofit organization that tracks service blackouts worldwide, there were no disruptions in DC over the last 48 hours. However, its monitoring would not cover technology that can throttle signal in a small localized area.

ℹ️ Real-time network data from Washington, DC show no indication of a mass-scale internet disruption overnight or through the last 48 hours. Observable fixed-line and cellular connectivity remain stable at the present time. We continue monitoring #DCBlackout

30. A screenshot of a message threatening to kill "white families" is being widely shared. It was allegedly posted to a buy-and-sell Facebook group. The account that posted it is not an official Black Lives Matter account and these types of threats are not part of the BLM movement or message. Anyone could have created the account and posted the message.

Facebook

We reached out to a moderator of the Facebook group and to a user who allegedly saw the message, and will update with any additional information.

31. A giraffe did not escape from a zoo in Minnesota. The images used in tweets and on Snapchat are from a YouTube video uploaded in 2012.

Twitter / @killdremo

32. A video from a protest in Boston does not show police officers destroying their own vehicle. The officers were removing a windshield that was damaged by protestors.

Twitter / @mattemattmatte / Via Twitter: @mattemattmatte

Here's an earlier video of the windshield being smashed:

Here's the real video of what happened to that police car. There's videos out there showing that the cops staged the damaged to their own car. #bostonprotest @Diggle_B_Mason @nucleotoad

33. There have been no credible reports of police using live rounds or being authorized to use live rounds at any of the protests around the US.

Screenshot/Twitter

34. One viral tweet showing a huge influx of donations has mischaracterized where they were sent. They were given to Touchstone Mental Health in Minnesota, a nonprofit focusing on mental illness, not a low-income housing center.

Twitter/Screenshots

35. The man who drove a truck into Minneapolis protesters is not a Ukrainian soldier, Kyiv Post reported. They share a name, but look nothing alike.

Twitter/Screenshots

36. A fake flyer claims George Soros, his Open Society Foundations, and the Thurston County Democrats in Washington State are paying people to be "professional anarchists." The OSF and Thurston County Democrats have said it's completely false.

Twitter / Facebook

@BernadetteQpat This image is fake. Neither George Soros nor the Open Society Foundations pay protesters. Claims that we do serve to delegitimize those who peacefully protest and distract from the police brutality crisis across the U.S. https://t.co/KJkpkcBoV5

37. No, MSNBC did not try to air footage of World War Z and say it's of the protests, First Draft reported. The man who created the prank has since clarified that it was meant to be a joke.

Screenshot/Twitter

38. A Twitter account that claimed to be run by anti-fascist activists and made violent threats was actually run by a white nationalist organization. A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News it removed @ANTIFA_US after confirming it was created by Identity Evropa. This is the latest example of fake Antifa accounts being used to incite violence and spread disinformation.

Twitter / @ANTIFA_US

39. People are sharing a photoshopped image that appears to show Adolf Hitler holding a Bible the same way President Donald Trump did when he stood in front of St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House on June 1.

Twitter

The original photo of Hitler does not show him holding a Bible:

@ericsslater @Wadesworld2 This is the actual Hitler photo. Note, in the comparison with Trump, the Bible was photoshopped in.

Twitter

After the photoshopped image was tweeted by actor Debra Messing, Twitter added a manipulated media disclaimer. The company has previously added this tag to a video of Joe Biden retweeted by president Trump.

Twitter

40. A children's hospital was not set on fire by protestors in Alabama or Ohio. The image on the left shows smoke from a fire in an apartment complex located behind a hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The same image was used to falsely claim that a children's hospital in Alabama was set ablaze, which the hospital debunked.

Facebook

41. Darnella Frazier, the woman who filmed George Floyd's arrest, says she has not sanctioned any GoFundMe pages.

Facebook / GoFundMe

42. This image is from 2014, Snopes reports, not the recent protests. Gawker interviewed the men wearing these shirts at the time.

Facebook

43. There have been a lot of reports of fake accounts who are changing or misrepresenting their identities. Don't be fooled.

Here's an interesting one. This Account with 120k followers claiming to represent "Anonymous" was a fake K-pop giveaway account up until 3 days ago, when it changed name and began tweeting about BLM.

44. The image of the soldier sitting on gold bars does not depict Tom Cotton. The operation this photo is from was in 2003 and Cotton didn't commence his military service until 2005.

Twitter

45. As of now, there's no evidence to support claims of coordinated brick placements at protests. Here's everything we know, including all the documented claims.

Twitter

46. There's confusion and misinformation about an incident involving a horse trailer in Tulsa. An image appears to show a man throwing a smoke canister into the trailer, but it's misleading. Other videos of the incident show the canister going over the trailer and there were no horses inside, according to a report from the Horse Network.

Facebook

A source who knows the driver of the trailer told Horse Network that the canister did not go inside the vehicle and "verified that no horses were in the trailer at the time of the incident."

47. This audio of two men talking about killing black and Mexican men is not of the LAPD police scanner, the Daily Beast reports. The original audio was captured by a walkie talkie incapable of picking up police frequencies.

Twiter/Screenshot

48. No, protesters did not deface the memorial to Vietnam War veterans. The image is years old and the memorial is routinely defaces, the LA Times reports.

Twitter/Screenshot


This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.

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