The fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy of Algerian descent by a police officer in France’s Nanterre on June 27 during a routine traffic check, has led to massive rioting, vandalism and arson in multiple cities, making the European nation takeover the front pages of newspapers across the globe.
The current situation in France has attracted strong reactions from the international community, with many critical of the immigration policy of France that has been battling riots since last week.
That hashtags such as “#FranceHasFallen,” “#FranceOnFire,” and “#FranceBurning,” has been dominating social media trends ever since the riots started is reflective of the dire situation on ground.
The boom in social media conversations centred around the unrest has given rise to another concern- that of misinformation and fake news. Multiple social media users, both verified and unverified accounts, have taken to social media to share unverified videos and images claiming to show massive rioting in the country, all the while questioning the policies of the Emmanuel Macron government.
The Newschecker English team alone debunked 10 instances of misinformation linked to the riots in France, in a span of six days.
For instance, a video taken during the shooting of ‘Fast And Furious 8’ in Cleveland in 2016 was shared to show rioters pushing multiple cars off a multi-storey building in France. An old CGI clip went viral claiming to show airstrikes bombing Paris amid the unrest. While a video posted to allege that rioters set a parking lot on fire was found to be from Australia, a 2020 footage was shared to show French arsonists flaunting their weapons on streets.
A 2019 video of protest by Algerian diaspora in Paris against the re-election bid of an Algerian leader was falsely linked to the ongoing unrest over the killing of a teenage boy. Additionally, old videos went viral with social media users claiming that the rioters have released the wild animals from Paris zoo. And, footage from the Philippines was shared alleging that the rioters set a library on fire in France.
As the unrest escalated, a circular, purportedly issued by the government of France, “suspending internet services” went viral on social media this week. Several verified accounts shared this circular, and media outlets, too, reported about this “internet ban”, including Scroll. The circular, however, turned out to be fake, and it was clarified that no such directive was issued by the French government.
A look at the trending hashtags also reveal some interesting details. Most posts under the trending hashtags were by ring-wingers, including India-based accounts.
The top trending tweets under each of these hashtags, “#FranceHasFallen,” “#FranceOnFire,” and “#FranceBurning,” are from Indian accounts.
But if the trends are any indicators, the conversation around the unrest in France seems to be far from over, and so does the misinformation surrounding it.
Misinformation On Manipur Violence: Fabricated Quote Attributed To Sunil Chhetri
While France faced unprecedented riots, North east India grappled with its own unrest. The violent clashes between Kukis and Meiteis in Manipur is yet to be completely resolved, giving way to speculation and unverified contents to seep in on social media platforms.
One such instance of fake news involved legendary Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri. Following India’s historic win at the SAFF Championship 2023, several social media users asserted that team’s captain and legendary footballer Sunil Chhetri dedicated the victory to the people of Manipur. The statement, allegedly made by Chhetri said, “This win is dedicated to my people in Manipur. Manipur loves football and it pains me to see what’s happening there. I hope Manipur unitedly celebrates this win.” Newschecker found that the footballer has not made any such statement.
Electronic Items Have Not Become Cheaper; Finance Ministry’s Twitter Post Misinterpreted
Several social media users shared a purported graphic on GST rates for household goods, claiming the government has recently reduced the rates, particularly on electronic items, effectively making them cheaper. A few media outlets, too, published articles on this “reduction” in GST rates. However, Newschecker found that a graphic posted by the Finance Ministry, comparing the pre-GST and post-GST rates of certain goods was misinterpreted to falsely claim that electronic goods have become cheaper.
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