On 18 January 2022, a Twitter user posted a photo of a huge crowd, flags and banners waving, marching down a wide city street.
“If the television media wasn't owned by billionaires, you would have seen coverage of yesterday's massive general strike in France against pension cuts. This is what Paris looked like,” they wrote.
If the television media wasn't owned by billionaires, you would have seen coverage of yesterday's massive general strike in France against pension cuts. This is what Paris looked like. pic.twitter.com/B3lVLCkZVz— Paul Emilio DelGatto - Old Yippie - SDS - Activist (@fah451bks) January 18, 2022
The tweet has garnered almost 35,000 likes and more than 11,500 retweets so far. But Twitter has added a warning: “This media is presented out of context.”
A day later, the photo was posted on Facebook in South Africa with a shortened description. “Yesterday’s massive general strike in France against pension cuts. This is what Paris looked like.”
But Meta’s fact-checking system has flagged the post as possibly false. What does the photo really show?
Thirty-sixth day of general strike in January 2020
An extensive online search found no news of a “massive general strike” against pension cuts in Paris, capital of the European country of France, in January 2022.
But bearing in mind the tweet’s claim that the event went unreported, Africa Check ran the photo through a TinEye reverse image search, sorting for the oldest version. This returned eight results, three of them from early January 2020 – two years ago.
With the help of a Google image search using the keywords “pension protest Paris”, we eventually tracked the photo down to the French-language news website le Parisien.
It appears in a 9 January 2020 article on the site headlined “Réforme des retraites : 44 000 manifestants à Paris” – “Pension reform: 44,000 demonstrators in Paris”.
The photo shows a protest on the 36th day of a general strike against transport costs, civil servants’ working conditions and proposed changes to France’s pension system that many feared would double their pension contribution.
On 16 January 2022 Paris did see protests against new measures to tackle Covid. But the photo shows a protest on 9 January 2020, during a long-running general strike protesting several moves by the French government.
The photo is false evidence of a false claim.
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.
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