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Viral image depicting police officer shooting at protesters fact-checked

Photo Credit - ChannelsTV 4 mins read

Claim: Viral Image attributed to ChannelsTV claims a policeman shot a protester in Abuja.

Dubawa’s findings show that while the viral image originated from Channels Television, there is a miscommunication in the viral image and this is owing to an error in the initial caption attached to the image on ChannelsTv’s Facebook page which was later edited to reflect the actual incident. While the viral claim made it seem like the police shot the protester with a gun, the correction made by the TV station suggests that the police shot teargas not live bullets.

Full Text

On Saturday, 12th of June, 2021, Dubawa came across a Facebook post by Adaeze Adaobi under the trending hashtag – #june12thprotest. The post which came with an accompanying image reads, “Am hearing that A Nigerian police shot at unharmed peaceful protester today #june12thprotest.” The attached image showing a policeman aiming at protesters and a Channels TV watermark was used to circulate the claim that a policeman was shooting at a protester.

While this post in isolation has 3 likes and 9 comments, Dubawa, with the aid of CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring tool, found several other Facebook pages that have published the image with this caption: ‘A policeman shoots at protesters in Abuja on June 12, 2021. Sodiq Adekunle channels television.’

The viral image

The other Facebook pages include blogs, influencers and celebrities. As of the time this fact check is written, the post had garnered over 25,000 interactions on Facebook.

A screenshot of CrowdTangle results. 

Dubawa is aware that fake news thrives on trending topics and is skeptical of the viral image especially with the consciousness of the practice of recirculating old images as new, falsely attributing images to authoritative sources and taking images out of context.

Verification

Dubawa started its search using the Google Reverse Image tool, which shows that the image originated from Channels Television as claimed by the various Facebook pages that shared it. 

Since the origin of the image has been established, Dubawa proceeded to Channels Television’s official website and Facebook account, where it found a similar but contradicting headline/caption; while the viral caption read ‘A policeman shoots at protesters in Abuja on June 12, 2021. Sodiq Adekunle channels television,’ the post on the official website and the Facebook account reads: ‘A policeman shoots teargas at protesters in Abuja on June 12, 2021. (Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television)’

Caption as in the viral image
Caption on Channels Television’s Facebook page

Considering that Facebook, unlike Twitter, allows users to edit their posts and the availability of various digital manipulation tools for internet users, this researcher guessed accordingly and looked further to confirm the presented hypothesis.

Before now, Facebook used to publicly indicate that a post has been edited by placing an ‘Edited’ label next to the post’s date, nonetheless, this Edited tag has now been hidden. Well, not entirely as users can still access it by clicking and tapping on the three dots (menu) located at the upper-left corner of a post and select View edit history.

Dubawa followed the process explained above and found that Channels TV actually made the post but edited the caption about an hour later to include ‘Teargas’. 

Conclusion

Dubawa’s findings show that while the viral image originated from Channels Television, there is a miscommunication in the image and this is owing to an error in the initial caption attached to it on ChannelsTv’s Facebook page which was later edited to reflect the actual incident. While the viral claim made it seem like the police shot the protester with a gun, the correction made by the TV station suggests that the police shot teargas not live bullets.

It is evident in this fact check how the omission of a single word can send an entirely different meaning from what’s intended. It is also evident how fast misinformation spreads. Dubawa advises patience when sharing and receiving information.

Lateef Sanni is a graduate of mass communication from Lagos state university. Before joining Dubawa, he belonged to the association of campus journalists where he was trained on the basics of fact-checking, a tool for combating misinformation in Nigeria. He joined the Dubawa team as a researcher and content developer for Dubawa's social media platforms. He consistently works to improve the dissemination of fact-checks through pictures [fact cards] and videos.

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