Each December 28th we pay more attention than ever to possible lies in the network, but misinformation occurs every day. In 2021 We have denied falsehoods about electoral fraud, immigrants or current affairs (such as the chaos in Afghanistan or the La Palma volcano). Above all, there has been a growing number of content that hid cyber scams and those of the pandemic have continued, especially for its flank of vaccines. This is a selection of VerificaRTVE contents that seemed what they were not and represented the year.
2. Hoaxes on immigration: I hate the different
Due to the open crisis between Spain and Morocco in the spring of 2021, which led to the arrival of thousands of immigrants to Ceuta, several hoaxes appeared. Among them, a video showed a fire in a Ceuta building to affirm that the immigrants who arrived in Ceuta had burned the Juan Morejón Public School. We spoke with officials of the center and residents of the area who denied the fact and located the point from which the video was recorded, which corresponds to fires that occurred between 2016 and 2019, before the crisis of 2021.
Immigration is one of the informative subjects that most lends itself to hoaxes. One of the most shocking cases that we were able to investigate this year had to do with the wave of hatred unleashed against a Spanish Red Cross volunteer, Luna Reyes, who hugged an African immigrant in the aforementioned crisis in Ceuta. Analyzing what was behind the racist and sexist messages issued then, we found anonymous users, hidden behind pseudonyms and of little authenticity. Some showed patterns of “mercenary” behavior, that is, of accounts that are contracted for this type of disinformation campaign. In other articles we have explained how you can detect economic hoaxes used to attack immigrants or texts that use false data to criminalize this group.
4. Phishing scams
This year we have received and denied many hoaxes related to him phishing, that is, a type of fraud that tries to impersonate known entities and companies (banks, stores like Amazon, brands like Rolex), impersonating your identity, to get your personal or bank details. One of the ones that you have sent us the most times to our WhatsApp number is a message that encourages us to participate in a raffle on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of El Corte Inglés. It keeps coming from time to time. As we have warned you on numerous occasions, to avoid falling into the trap of phishing it is better not to click on links of dubious origin.
It is phishing del Corte Inglés was very similar to this one about supposed gifts from Amazon for its 30th anniversary and the centenary of the Rolex brand. Banks are also often subject to these impersonations, with urgent messages that warn of security problems in your account or that your card has been blocked. This type of message is also usual for supposed packages pending collection, also supplanting the Post Office. And in other cases they take advantage of specific moments, such as the income tax return presentation campaign to impersonate the Tax Agency. Due to the frequency and abundance of this type of scams, we wrote an article with various general tips on cybersecurity that you can consult for this type of case and other similar ones. If in any case you accidentally clicked, see in this other article what you can do if you have fallen victim to any of these phishing.
5. News hoaxes: boarded the bandwagon of the ‘last hour’
The chaos that occurred in August 2021 in Afghanistan, with thousands of citizens trying to get out of Kabul, he raised several hoaxes. We detected one of them when we saw an image circulating that showed dozens of people crowded inside an aircraft, stating that they were Afghans about to be evacuated. From various clues (such as who publishes the image or what the image contains, observing it carefully), you can distinguish real photographs from those that have been decontextualized. This particular image was not from the Afghanistan evacuation, but from another aerial evacuation that occurred in 2013 during the Typhoon Haiyan crisis in the Philippines.
This political and humanitarian crisis that occurred in August 2021 as a result of the departure of US troops from Afghanistan was the subject of hoaxes and misinformation at the international level. One of the tactics of disinformation is use the breaking news, when the contrasted information is scarce in the first moments, to capture the media and citizen attention and try to sneak the hoaxes. To do this, as in this case, disinformation uses the decontextualization of images, which impersonates current images that do not belong to that event or crisis. This year we have seen this type of misinformation during the July protests in Cuba, using images from protests in Egypt in 2011, images of a child injured in a shooting in Venezuela or protests over the death of George Floyd in the US. We also detected this in an October video that was intended to make an anti-vaccination protest in Romania appear massive when in fact it was a 2017 demonstration against political corruption.
6. Catastrophe hoaxes: taking advantage of uncertainty
In September 2021, at the beginning of the La Palma volcano eruption, several messages went viral on social networks warning that the awakening of the volcano would cause a “megatsunami” that would affect the Iberian Peninsula and the east coast of the United States. This hoax was accompanied by a A fragment of a documentary broadcast precisely on La 2 de RTVE: it was a National Geographic documentary broadcast on September 3, 4, 5 and 10, 2012 within the Docufilia space. But the documentary itself already mentioned the improbability of the event. We dismantle this sensationalist and unscientific hoax through statements by experts, the Canarian authorities themselves and the evidence provided by another RTVE program, “El Escarabajo Verde”, which also ruled out this hypothesis in 2012.
These types of falsehoods are very common when they happen natural disasters and they occur situations of uncertainty, especially due to the little information available in the first moments. That makes the lies find more acceptance among people. This year we have seen other canons of catastrophes during the storm Philomena that devastated Spain in January, such as the one that stated that snowballs did not melt because they were made of plastic or the one that exaggerated the presence of “giant” and “more aggressive” black rats in Madrid due to snowfall. Also in January we saw some false content due to the earthquakes that occurred in Granada. And the eruption of The Palm It brought out other hoaxes such as the viral video that showed images of a volcano in Iceland making them pass as the one on La Palma or others about false tweets from celebrities referring to the event.
Remember that for disinformation every day is December 28. The “innocent” of which we have spoken here are hoaxes that we have denied throughout the year. Don’t be innocent, stay watch out for falsehoods and lies that they try to sneak you in.