Fake news: Chlorine dioxide won’t stop coronavirus

Beatrice Dupuy, Arijeta Lajka and Amanda Seitz
Associated Press

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:

CLAIM: Chlorine dioxide will help get rid of the new virus from China.

THE FACTS: As news spread about the new coronavirus outbreak, social media accounts began promoting the idea that drinking chlorine dioxide or using related products with names like Miracle Mineral Solution – or MMS – would help wipe out the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against ingesting the bleaching agent. “We understand people are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus and we urge people to talk to their health care provider about treatment options, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness,” the FDA said in a statement to The Associated Press. Social media users began circulating the false claim on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube shortly after the first case of the virus was reported in the U.S. By Friday, virus had infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, with more than 200 deaths in China. Chlorine dioxide has been falsely touted by fringe groups online as a “miracle” cure for autism. The FDA has been warning against drinking chlorine dioxide since 2010 after the agency received several reports of consumers drinking products containing the chemical. The agency warns that it can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and symptoms of severe dehydration.

CLAIM: FEMA proposes “martial law to contain coronavirus”

THE FACTS: Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed that there are no plans to enact martial law in the U.S. In recent days, a false story circulated on social media claiming that FEMA was proposing martial law to contain the respiratory illness spreading around the world. Martial law would transfer power to the military. “This article is not true,” FEMA said in an email sent Tuesday to The Associated Press, adding that they have not advocated for martial law. The false claims about martial law have circulated on Facebook since Jan. 23. “Acting FEMA Director Pete Gaynor on Wednesday offered President Trump a startling solution, Martial Law in the United States, to prevent the spread of a lethal Chinese Coronavirus that infected hundreds and killed at least 17 people in the Communist nation,” the post said. False posts also circulated on Twitter. “Those who are ‘awake’ and aware completely understand the dormant plans for martial law and widespread FEMA detention camps in America,” a Twitter user falsely claimed.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 file photo, construction workers labor at the site of the Huoshenshan temporary field hospital being built in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province.

CLAIM: Image shows the first building of Huoshenshan Hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan constructed in just 16 hours and completed Monday.

THE FACTS: Chinese state media shared an image Monday that circulated widely on Twitter, implying that it showed a hospital constructed in just 16 hours to deal with thousands of new patients who have contracted the new virus from China. The photo, which shows a building with large windows in front with a white staircase at the side, is a stock image of a prefabricated office sold from China. The image is used regularly on sites of businesses that sell prefabricated homes, offices or hotel space. The Associated Press obtained photos of crews working to construct Huoshenshan Hospital on Tuesday.

CLAIM: 14 states have no paper ballot record of your vote.

THE FACTS: For the 2020 elections only one state, Louisiana, will not keep a paper ballot record of any votes. Eight other states rely on a mixed system, where some counties will keep a paper record of ballots and others will not. Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard posted a video Wednesday on her social media account, in which she misleadingly claimed that 14 states have no paper ballot record of votes cast. Gabbard called it the “greatest threat to our democracy,” warning that it could entirely shape the results of the 2020 election. Her comments, which were not fully accurate, asked people to share the claim on Twitter and Facebook. The information Gabbard provided was outdated and doesn’t provide a full picture of how voters’ ballots will be recorded in the upcoming election. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment by the AP. States and counties around the country record votes differently. During the 2018 election, there were 14 states where voters might have gone to the polls and cast votes that weren’t backed up on paper. That’s been whittled down to nine states heading into the 2020 election. Currently only one state – Louisiana – keeps no paper trail of votes at all. Counties in eight states – Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas – use a hybrid system that may or may not document the votes on paper, said Warren Stewart, a data analyst at Verified Voting, which tracks the election systems counties across the country use. “Many states have a variety of different systems in different counties,” Stewart said. In those states, some counties do not produce paper receipts of votes. In the case of New Jersey, for example, only one county records votes by paper. In Oklahoma, all counties use a paper ballot record system except for voters with disabilities who might cast a vote on an electronic system. It’s worth noting that there is no federal regulation requiring paper ballot backups. Gabbard introduced legislation last year that would provide states with funding to ensure votes are recorded on paper. Experts have warned that systems without a paper ballot backup could be hacked in the election. Last year, an analysis by the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University’s School of Law found that as many as 12 percent of voters might cast a ballot without a paper backup in the 2020 election.

CLAIM: Video captured fatal crash of helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant.

THE FACTS: The video shows a helicopter crash in the United Arab Emirates in December 2018. On Jan. 26, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. Shortly after the crash, video showing a helicopter going into a tailspin in rugged terrain and then crashing into a canyon began circulating on social media, described as showing the crash of Bryant’s helicopter. One tweet circulating the video with the comment, “R.I.P @kobebryant died videos,” had nearly 3 million views by Monday afternoon. The video actually shows the Dec. 29, 2018, crash of a rescue helicopter in Ras al-Khaimah, in the northeastern region of the United Arab Emirates. All four crew members died in the crash. According to AP reporting, the Augusta 139 helicopter crashed near the world’s longest zipline at UAE’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais, in Ras al-Khaimah. A number of media outlets and social media accounts published video at the time of the 2018 helicopter crash, capturing it from various angles.