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 facts:


BBC did not report that Ukraine is sending arms to Hamas, a video was fabricated

CLAIM: A video shows a BBC News report confirming Ukraine provided weapons to Hamas.

THE FACTS: The widely shared video clip is fabricated, officials with the BBC and Bellingcat, an investigative news website that is cited in the video as the source, confirm. Social media users are sharing the bogus video to claim there’s a direct link between the wars playing out in Ukraine and the Middle East. The clip purports to show a BBC News story about a recent report from Bellingcat on Ukraine providing arms to Hamas, the Palestinian group that launched a deadly surprise attack on Israel this past weekend. “Bellingcat: Ukrainian military offensive failure and HAMAS attack linked,” reads the text over the video, which has more than 2,500 comments and 110,000 views on the messaging service Telegram. “The Palestinians purchased firearms, ammunition, drones and other weapons.” The clip, which was also shared on Facebook and X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, includes the BBC’s distinctive block-text logo in white along with a montage of photos and videos of soldiers, military vehicles and destroyed structures set to dramatic music. But neither the BBC nor Bellingcat has reported any evidence to support the notion that Ukraine funneled arms to Hamas. “We’ve reached no such conclusions or made any such claims,” Bellingcat wrote Tuesday in a post on X that included screengrabs of the fake report. “We’d like to stress that this is a fabrication and should be treated accordingly.” Eliot Higgins, the Amsterdam-based organization’s founder, noted in a separate post on X that the claims have been amplified by Russian social media users. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a New York University professor briefly shown near the end of the video, also disputed the clip’s suggestion that he’s said the U.S. might leave NATO if the arms claims prove true. “Entirely fake. Never said that,” the distinguished professor of risk engineering wrote in an email Wednesday. Spokespersons for the BBC didn’t respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday, but no such reporting can be found on the outlet’s website or social media accounts, and a reporter with the organization has confirmed it’s not real. “The video is 100% fake. Neither BBC News nor Bellingcat have reported that,” wrote Shayan Sardarizadeh, a reporter with BBC Verify, the organization’s fact checking unit, in a post on X Tuesday. Ukrainian officials have similarly dismissed the notion that its country’s arms have somehow found their way to Hamas, whose incursion into Israel Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced this week. The country’s military intelligence agency, in a Monday post on its official Facebook page, accused Russia of plotting a disinformation campaign around these claims. Experts say there is also no evidence of Hamas making any claims about receiving arms from Ukraine, nor would it make sense for Kyiv to provide them. “I see no reason Ukraine would do this,” said Michael O’Hanlon, director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “Starting with the fact that Kiev is in the business of obtaining weapons and not giving them away.”

— Associated Press writers Philip Marcelo in New York and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv contributed this report.


The US isn’t planning to order young men to enlist in the military, despite claims made online

CLAIM: The U.S. military is planning to reinstitute the draft.

THE FACTS: Two articles discussing such a move are being misrepresented, and Defense officials confirm the armed forces have made no such recommendation to Congress or the president, which are the entities empowered to authorize a draft. With America’s allies in Europe and the Middle East embroiled in conflicts with no end in sight, social media users are sharing a headline from a Sept. 25 article from the Mises Institute, a libertarian group in Alabama, that reads: “The US Military Is Laying the Groundwork to Reinstitute the Draft.” Other posts include passages from an essay in Parameters, a quarterly journal published by the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The essay, entitled “A Call to Action: Lessons from Ukraine for the Future Force,” highlights military lessons from the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s also cited in the Mises Institute article. “Biden Set To Bring Back The DRAFT.. For War With Russia Or China,” wrote one Facebook user who shared a video that included screenshots of the Parameters essay. But there’s no plans to bring back mandatory conscription in the U.S., military officials confirmed this week. Nicole Schwegman, a DOD spokesperson, dismissed the claims as false. She noted in a phone interview that only Congress and the president have the ability to call for a draft and the military has not recommended elected officials even consider it. She also pointed to the disclaimer at the bottom of the Parameters essay that makes it clear the defense department doesn’t exercise any editorial control over the publication. The disclaimer also states that articles represent the opinions of their authors and “not necessarily those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government.” Robert Kenny, a deputy associate director at the Selective Service System, which maintains information about U.S. residents who potentially qualify for the draft, confirmed the Virginia-based agency hasn’t had any discussions regarding reinstituting conscription and isn’t aware of any legislative proposals in Congress to reinstate the draft. He said one of the agency’s top priorities remains ensuring all men ages 18-25 years-old are aware of the federal requirement to register for the Selective Service in the event the president and Congress enact a draft. John Nagl, a professor at the U.S. Army War College who co-authored the Parameters essay, said the piece doesn’t even recommend the resumption of the draft. It states the U.S. Army faces recruiting shortfalls and a shrinking reserve corps, meaning it likely could not sustain the rate of casualties seen in the conflict in Ukraine at its current troop levels. “The implication is that the 1970s concept of an all-volunteer force has outlived its shelf life and does not align with the current operating environment,” Nagl and the other authors write in the essay. “Large-scale combat operations troop requirements may well require a reconceptualization of the 1970s and 1980s volunteer force and a move toward partial conscription.” Zack Yost, who authored the Mises Institute piece, stressed his item does not say that the military is reinstituting the draft, rather that the U.S. military in the “context of this piece in the War College journal is laying the groundwork to do so.” The U.S. drafted soldiers to fight in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Active conscription ended in 1973, during the waning days of the Vietnam War, after which the country moved to an all-volunteer military.

— Philip Marcelo.


No, an ‘air vaccine’ tied to Bill Gates was not approved for use on non-consenting people

CLAIM: Bill Gates obtained approval for an “air vaccine” that will be administered without people’s approval.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: A website known for spreading misinformation is misrepresenting a Yale University study that tested an inhalable COVID vaccine on mice; it was not tested on humans, nor funded by Gates. Posts spreading on social media platforms in both English and Spanish in recent days falsely suggest the government has given a green light for the billionaire and philanthropist to vaccinate unwitting citizens from the sky. Many posts on Facebook and Instagram shared screenshots of a headline reading “Bill Gates mRNA ‘Air Vaccine’ Approved for Use Against Non-Consenting Humans,” alongside an image of people wearing protective equipment in a helicopter. The headline comes from The People’s Voice, a site that has routinely spread misinformation. Its post links to a research article published in the journal Science Translational Medicine in August, but The People’s Voice wildly misrepresents what the journal says. The outlet did not immediately return a request for comment. The article, by scientists at Yale University, is about their research into using an inhalable polymer to deliver mRNA, the technology in many COVID-19 vaccines. The research was performed on mice, not humans, one of the authors told the AP. It involved a vaccine being delivered nasally, not sprayed from the air, as the helicopter photo suggests. What’s more, Gates had nothing to do with it. “This basic science study found that mRNA molecules delivered intranasally to the lungs of research animals can be used to effectively vaccinate against the COVID virus,” Mark Saltzman, a professor at the Yale University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in an email. Saltzman confirmed that Gates did not fund the research, pointing to the list of funding sources that can be seen in the article, which does not mention him. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed to the AP that the claim is false. The FDA must approve vaccines for use by the public in the U.S., and this intranasal vaccine is not one of the COVID-19 shots with approval or emergency use authorization. A spokesperson for the agency added that its regulations require “informed consent” for any clinical research on humans, which would be impossible in the scenario described in the false headline. The Chinese city of Shanghai did begin administering an inhalable COVID-19 vaccine in October 2022, which is delivered via a mist sucked in through the mouth, the AP reported. At the time, it appeared to be a world first.

— Associated Press writer León Ramírez in Mexico City contributed this report.


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