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.


Posts misrepresent the status of a bill that could disqualify Trump from the ballot in Hawaii

CLAIM: Hawaii passed a bill to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot during the 2024 election.

THE FACTS: Social media users are misrepresenting the status of the bill.

Hawaii’s Senate Committee on Judiciary voted on Tuesday to move forward a bill that could disqualify Trump from the ballot under the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause. The bill passed a first vote on the Senate floor late last month and would need to pass at least two additional votes on the floor to clear the Senate and move to the House.

“#BREAKING: Hawaii Democrats’ bill to keep president Trump off the ballot has PASSED,” reads one post on X, formerly Twitter. “It seems Democrats are getting a little worried due to support for Trump here SOARING after Biden ABANDONED the Maui fire victims.”

It adds that “the most corrupt government in the United States is showing its true colors again” and asks whether the U.S. is “a third world country now or something.” The post had received approximately 27,000 likes and 10,100 shares as of Thursday.

But the bill has many steps remaining, including that it must pass on the floor of both the Senate and the House, two major hurdles on its way to becoming law.

SB2392 would exclude candidates from ballots if they are disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits anyone who swore an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it from holding public office.

“It sets up a process for removing Trump from the ballot as well as anyone else who has violated the 14th Amendment,” Hawaii state Sen. Karl Rhoads, who introduced the bill, told the AP in an email. “The Hawaii Supreme Court would be the body making that decision and of course someone would have to file a challenge. I have no plans to file a challenge personally.”

Rhoads explained that “the intent was to have a process in place to be sure that that provision of the constitution is enforced, just like the provisions on age and citizenship.”

“The Legislature should probably have passed a provision like this years ago, but insurrection seemed like a moot point until Trump’s actions on January 6 and leading up to it,” he said.

The bill further states that candidates could also be disqualified from ballots under Article 16, Section 3 of the Hawaii Constitution or “another constitutional or statutory provision.” Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Hawaii Constitution specifies that a person must have been convicted of overthrowing or attempting to overthrow the state or federal government “by force or violence” to be barred from public office.

In its final report released at the end of December, the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee asserted that Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election and failed to act to stop his supporters from engaging in a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. However, Trump has not been convicted on charges related to insurrection in a court of law.

Rhoads, a Democrat, introduced SB2392 in the Senate on Jan. 19. It passed its first vote on the Senate floor three days later and was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, which Rhoads chairs. On Tuesday, the committee held a public hearing on the bill and voted to move it forward, recommending that it be passed with amendments. Three Democrats on the committee voted in favor, one with noted reservations, while one Democrat and one Republican voted against it.

The bill must pass two more votes on the Senate floor, plus votes by any other committees to which it is referred, to clear the Senate and move to the House, where the approval process will begin again. Only after it is fully passed by the House and both chambers agree on the final text will the bill be sent to the governor, who can veto it or sign it into law. If the governor does neither, the bill will become law without signature on a set date.

Two states, Colorado and Maine, have found that Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, to overturn his loss in the 2020 election are sufficient to keep him off the ballot in 2024 under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Both decisions are on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Colorado case, which Trump appealed. The court heard arguments in a special session on Thursday.


False report claims Microsoft will ‘disable computers’ if users share ‘non-mainstream content’

CLAIM: Microsoft plans to “disable computers of users who share ‘non-mainstream content’ online.”

THE FACTS: An article by a website known to publish erroneous content misrepresented an interviewwith Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on NBC about artificial intelligence. Nadella discussed how to reduce “unintended consequences” of AI, including misinformation, but made no mention of disabling computers.

Social media users are sharing a screenshot from the baseless article titled: “Microsoft To Disable Computers of Users Who Share ‘Non-Mainstream Content’ Online.”

One post on X, formerly Twitter, that shared the screenshot alleged, as the article does, that the supposed decision is part of a plan to “combat so-called ‘misinformation’ in the run-up to the 2024 election.” It had received approximately 11,000 likes and 8,700 shares as of Thursday.

But the article provides no evidence that supports its claim. It comes from a website called The People’s Voice, previously known as NewsPunch, which has published numerous stories based on fabricatedinformation.

As supposed proof of Microsoft’s plan, the People’s Voice story includes a clip from aninterview Nadella gave to “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt at the end of January in which he talks about how to address the “unintended consequences” of AI, such as misinformation, while also amplifying its benefits.

At no point in the interview does Nadella say that Microsoft is going to disable anyone’s computer for sharing “non-mainstream content” or any other reason.

“This is not the first election where we dealt with disinformation or propaganda campaigns by adversaries and election interference,” Nadella says in the clip, after Holt asks about how AI could impact the 2024 race. “I think we are doing all the work across the tech industry around watermarking, detecting deepfakes, and content IDs.”

Nadella adds that there is going to be enough technology “to be able to identify the issues around disinformation and misinformation” and that the question comes down to how to build a consensus about what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to AI technology.

The People’s Voice also links to an article about Nadella’s interview on another website, which states that the CEO’s response to Holt’s question “seemed to imply a willingness to use technology for censoring content in pursuit of fighting what he identified as disinformation.” This story does not claim that Microsoft will be disabling computers as part of such an effort.

Microsoft told The Associated Press that it has no plans to disable computers as described in the claims spreading online. The People’s Voice responded to a request for comment.


Migrants in New York City will receive prepaid debit cards, not credit cards, for designated goods

CLAIM: New York City is giving credit cards to migrants living in the U.S. illegally.

THE FACTS: The city is launching a pilot program that will provide migrants with prepaid debit cards to buy only food and baby supplies, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. Participants will be allowed to shop with the cards at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores. The goal is to cut costs and bolster business of local merchants, officials said.

The move comes amid a massive influx of migrants to New York City. Social media users are misrepresenting the new program with false claims about the type of aid participants will receive.

“Lunatic Democrats handing out credit cards to foreigners while Americans are struggling,” reads one post on X, formerly Twitter, that had received approximately 8,000 likes and more than 3,800 shares as of Thursday.

But migrants will get prepaid debit cards as part of the New York pilot program — not credit cards — with which they will only be permitted to purchase food and baby supplies at certain types of retailers.

The cards are a possible replacement for non-perishable food boxes the city currently provides to migrants. They will be loaded with an average of $12.52 per person, per day for 28 days, according to Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. SNAP and WIC, federally funded health and nutrition programs, already use similar prepaid cards to dole out benefits.

New York City has allocated $53 million to the pilot program, which officials say will save $600,000 per month and $7.2 million annually. The program will also allow migrants to purchase food and baby supplies of their choosing. Adams said at a press conference on Monday that beyond savings, officials hope using the cards at area retailers will help stimulate the local economy.

About 35 minutes into the press conference, Adams addressed the veracity of the claims spreading online.

“We need to dispel the rumor that we gave American Express cards to everyone,” he said. “That is just not true.”

Credit cards and debit cards are two very different types of payment methods. When using a credit card, a consumer borrows money that they must repay on a certain due date. Debit cards are linked to a bank or credit union account, meaning one generally can’t spend more money than they have in their account. Prepaid debit cards must be loaded with money before they can be used, as they are not linked to a bank or credit union account.

Mamelak told The Associated Press that migrants in the “cost-effective technology pilot program” will only receive prepaid debit cards.

“We will provide prepaid debit cards to an initial 500 migrant families with children who may use the prepaid cards exclusively at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores to ensure the money is spent on food and baby supplies,” she wrote in an email.

Mamelak explained that participants “will be required to sign an affidavit affirming that they will be using these cards for the intended purposes” and that doing otherwise will risk removal from the program.

Mobility Capital Finance, or MoCaFi, the company that New York City is partnering with to launch the program, confirmed to the AP that the cards “are not credit cards.”

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