Not real news: A look at what didn’t happen this week
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: NASA said Feb. 10 is the only day of the year that a broom can stand on its own.
The Facts: NASA did not make that claim, but the U.S. space agency did take time Tuesday to address the false assertion as it spread widely on Twitter. Turns out, it’s just a balancing act and a broom can stand on its own on any day.
Social media users began circulating the claim citing NASA on Monday along with videos and photos showing a variety of brooms being balanced. Some posts tied balancing brooms to gravitational pull and others said it was the tilt of the Earth. NASA spokeswoman Karen Northon told The Associated Press in an email that the posts, which circulated widely on Twitter and Facebook, proved the importance of checking with reliable sources before spreading information online. “This is another social media hoax that exemplifies how quickly pseudoscience and false claims can go viral,” she said.
NASA knocked down the #BroomstickChallenge claim on its official Twitter account Tuesday, posting that “basic physics works every day of the year – not just Feb. 10.” The tweet featured a video of Astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble making a broom stand on its own. “It’s just physics,” Drew said in the video uploaded to Twitter on Feb. 11.
NASA Earth, a separate Twitter account, also addressed the claim, stating, “there’s no special gravity that only affects brooms.” The broom challenge myth has existed online for years. WIRED debunked the claim in 2012 with a story titled “Balancing brooms: it’s not about the planets.”
Claim: Newspaper report shows Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg was arrested as a teenager in 1998 for killing dogs.
The Facts: A fabricated newspaper article was created to make it appear that Buttigieg had been arrested as a teenager for killing dogs in the town where he later served as mayor. Social media posts with the false report about the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, circulated widely after the Feb. 7 New Hampshire debate.
The false report was carried on what appeared to be a newspaper front page that had been folded in half. Only South Bend appeared in the title of the newspaper. The false article, dated August, 30, 1998, said that Buttigieg was arrested on suspicion of killing at least five dogs. Alan Achkar, executive editor of the South Bend Tribune, knocked down the false article on his Twitter account, posting the original front page from the newspaper on Aug. 30, 1998. It shows no mention of Buttigieg. “It is obviously bogus,” Achkar told The Associated Press.
Robert Franklin, director of photography at the Tribune, also commented on Achkar’s Twitter post, saying that the newsroom had received calls about the fake post. “We were more upset about the style errors: Five not spelled out, no byline, no dateline, a jump in the middle of story,” Franklin said in his tweet. The fake article was created using an online newspaper clipping generator where users can create fake stories.
Claim: Photo of five teens standing against a wall shows Sen. Bernie Sanders at Stonewall in 1969.
The Facts: The photo does not show the Democratic presidential candidate at the Stonewall uprising in 1969. After Sanders’ New Hampshire primary win Tuesday, social media users began circulating the false claim with the photo, gaining thousands of shares on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Mike Casca, a campaign spokesman for the Vermont senator, said in an email that the photo was not of the senator.
The photo also does not match the archival images from the uprising. On June 28, 1969, a police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York led to a rebellion that helped propel the modern LGBTQ rights movement. At the time, many states outlawed gay sex and some experts claimed homosexuality was a mental disorder.
The photo of the teens has been shared online for years with various claims. Sanders has been an outspoken supporter of gay rights in the past, supporting a gay pride parade in 1983, while he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Sanders later spoke out against the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prohibited same-sex couples from obtaining federal benefits, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which banned gay and lesbian Americans from serving openly in the military.
Claim: Colloidal silver products can help prevent or protect against the new coronavirus from China.
AP’s assessment: The silver solution has no known benefit in the body when ingested, according to officials with the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a federal scientific research agency. Colloidal silver is made up of silver particles suspended in a liquid, and has often has often been falsely peddled as a miracle solution to boost the immune system and cure diseases. Social media users have most recently linked it to products to address the new virus that emerged from China. But experts have long said that the solution has no known function or benefits. “There are no complementary products, such as colloidal silver or herbal remedies, that have been proven effective in preventing or treating this disease (COVID-19), and colloidal silver can have serious side effects,” Dr. Helene Langevin, director for the NCCIH. The FDA has taken action against companies promoting colloidal silver products with misleading claims. The NCCIH says colloidal silver has the power to turn skin blue when silver builds up in the body’s tissue. In 2002, The Associated Press reported that the skin of a Libertarian Senate candidate in Montana turned blue-gray after taking too much colloidal silver. The candidate, Stan Jones, made the solution himself and began taking it in 1999 to prepare for Y2K disruptions, according to the report. On Wednesday, televangelist Jim Bakker interviewed a guest on his show who promoted silver solution products, claiming the substance had been tested on previous coronavirus strains and eliminated them in hours. She said it had not been tested on the new coronavirus. As the guest spoke, ads ran on the screen for items like a “Cold & Flu Season Silver Sol” collection for $125. Bakker did not immediately return a request for comment. Coronavirus is a broad name for a family of viruses including SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome. As of Friday, China had reported 63,851 confirmed cases on the mainland, with 1,380 deaths.