Since the explosion of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a surge of fake news intended to spread panic or give false health advise. Some, however, aimed at lifting the spirits, but were too good to be true.
1. Sandra the Orangutan learned to wash hands according to Covid-19 recommendations
“Sandra the Orangutan started washing her hands because she saw all the zookeepers doing it repeatedly during the Covid-19 crisis,” wrote one Twitter user.
However, what did really happen? Sandra the Orangutan, which lives in the Centre for Great Apes in Florida, US, is famous among visitors. The video showing her scrupulously washing her hands was actually filmed in autumn – that is, before the pandemic.
The management of the centre deleted the original video to prevent it from spreading on social media.
“Miscommunication leads to people becoming disheartened,” National Geographic quoted Jennifer Dodd, a professor at Edinburgh’s Napier University in the UK.
False images are “leading to apathy [and] ultimately a reversal in conservation engagement,” she said on Twitter.
According to the scientist, it is important to look realistically at nature and not to imagine that it will simply adjust to man-made disasters during an emergency.
2. Image from the Second World War
The post was popular with Lithuanian social media users. In a black and white photo, a soldier can be seen carrying a donkey on his back. The caption says: “What’s happening is that the field is mined and that if the donkey was free to wander as it pleased, it would likely detonate a charge and kill everyone. The moral of the story is that during difficult times the first ones you have to keep under control are the jackasses who don’t understand the danger and do as they please.”
The image spread among Lithuanian internet users at the beginning of April when restrictions imposed by the nationwide quarantine were becoming felt.
The true story of the photo was discovered by a US fact-checking website, snopes.com. It turns out that the image from 1958 shows a starving donkey being brought back to a French base in Algeria.
3. Christiano Ronaldo converted his hotels into hospitals
Thousands of social media users flocked to the feel-good story, shared by a single Twitter user, about Christiano Ronaldo, the famous footballer, transforming his Pestana CR7 hotel chain into hospitals.
“Patients in Portugal will be treated free of charge. He will pay all medical staff,” read the fake claim.
Social media users were quick to notice that it wasn’t the first fake about famous football players and coronavirus aid. The hotel chain, Pestana CR7, later denied the claim to AFP news agency.
4. Free food during the pandemic
“For parents who cannot find formula in stores for their babies right now – grab the can of formula that you do have, and call the number on the back and they will send you a whole case during this time,” said posts on Twitter which were popular among American social media users.
Producers of baby formula were quick to release a statement, denying the claim. Meanwhile, the fact-checking website snopes.com also revealed a number of other fakes claiming that McDonald's was handing out free food during the pandemic.
5. As the virus halts human activity, nature takes over
As more and more countries imposed lockdowns, social media users worldwide started sharing images of nature returning to spaces abandoned by humans. For example, one popular image showed a group of elephants wandering into farms in China’s Wuhan provinces and later falling asleep in a tea field after getting drunk on wine.
A similar message spread about Venice, where swans and dolphins allegedly returned to the canals. The posts were shared by several mainstream sources, including the popular Lonely Planet travel guide.
The case was debunked by National Geographic, which explained that swans were a common sight in Venice, while the dolphins were actually filmed in Sardinia.
Meanwhile the drunk elephant story was dismissed by Chinese officials who said that although elephants are not uncommon in Wuhan, the pictures were not genuine.
Disinformation. Many positive, but still misleading messages to do with the coronavirus have been circulating on social media. They were usually based on authentic images, but were tagged with misleading dates and locations. Although the messages may seem harmless, specialists say that, in some cases, fakes may prevent us from understanding the true scale of a problem.