In a sign of the times that has become hauntingly familiar across the world, a photo of rows of hospital beds inside what looks like a large warehouse has been shared on Facebook in South Africa.
“Stay Home! Kubi in Cape Town… Gauteng is next!” its caption reads. “CTICC Temporary Hospital… Today!” The photo was posted on 29 June 2020.
CTICC is the Cape Town International Convention Centre, in the Western Cape province’s largest city.
Is this a photo of the temporary CTICC hospital?
Snapped by Western Cape politician
Mackenzie said it was taken in the CTICC and, at the time, 326 of the hospital’s 862 beds had been filled.
Africa Check contacted Mackenzie, who confirmed that he had taken the photo on 29 June.
The photo is scattered with emojis. Mackenzie told us he added the emojis to hide the identities of patients. He shared an unedited version of the photo with us, as well as others taken at the same time.
The timestamps on the photos confirm that they were captured on 29 June when, Mackenzie said, he was “on an oversight visit to the CTICC”. He posted his tweet shortly after.
Miscaptioned in news report
The photo has been used in an incorrect context by local media. When News24 reported on the temporary hospital on 29 June it made a small error.
The article correctly said the hospital had opened on 8 June, but incorrectly attributed Mackenzie’s photo to the same day.
“In a first look inside the facility when it opened on 8 June, Western Cape MPL Ricardo Mackenzie tweeted a picture of the 862-bed facility steadily filling up,” News24 wrote.
The photo was in fact taken three weeks later.
Signs of photos used out of context
The photo may have been flagged as potentially false because a number of comments on the post promote the false narrative that Covid-19 is not a serious disease, and suggest that the photo is intended to spread fear.
And the post shows many signs common to photos shared out of context. In Africa Check’s guide to vetting information during a pandemic, we warn that messages designed to provoke strong emotions – such as fear – are often suspicious.
The Facebook post uses dramatic and emotive language, with lots of exclamation marks and emojis.
It also says the photo was taken in Cape Town “Today!” but does not specify exactly where or when it was taken. This is also common with photos shared out of context on social media.
Emojis or other graphics added to an image can also make the original photo more difficult to find in a reverse image search. They can also cover details that provide important context.
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’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.
Fighting coronavirus misinformation
Africa Check is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers fighting misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Learn more about the alliance here.
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