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False Posts About French Riots Spread Online

France has seen another night of unrest after the fatal shooting by police of a 17-year-old boy in a Paris suburb.

Images of the unrest, which has spread to other French cities, are being shared on social media. As well as genuine video, false and misleading claims are also circulating, with the potential to increase tensions.

BBC Verify has been investigating some of these.

The riot image from a French film

A striking image showing a group of young men driving a French police van, with one hanging out of the window brandishing a gun, has been shared on Twitter with the words “France, photo of the day”.

A picture of a police car with rioters taken from a tweet and and labelled "False"

The tweet, posted early on 2 July had over 1.7m views but it’s false – it’s not from the current riots in France but is actually a still from a film.

BBC Verify examined the image and, searching for previous versions of it on the internet, found it was from the French film, Athena – a fictional account of rioting in a city suburb – made in 2022.

Image of a stolen French police van from the film, Athena
Image caption,Image from the French film, Athena (2022)

The people in the van and the blue motorcycle are exactly the same.

The person who posted the tweet later clarified that the image was meant to be of an “illustrative” nature, but not before it had been retweeted thousands of times.

He subsequently deleted it.

Footage from another film

Footage of cars falling from the windows of a multi-storey car park has been widely shared online, with the message: “WTF is going on in France…”.

This is false – it is old footage and it looks like it has come from another film.

An image of cars falling from a multi-storey car park, taken from a tweet and labelled "false"

BBC Verify took images of the video and carried out an online search to see if it had appeared before. The search brought up a tweet from June 2016, which claimed the footage was from the set of the action movie, Fast and Furious 8 – which was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. Using the information in that tweet, BBC Verify located the footage to a multi-storey car park on Prospect Avenue East in Cleveland.

The colours of the cars and the outside of the building match a scene from the film, which came out in 2017.

Old footage of a “sniper”

Over the past few days, a video has been shared repeatedly on Twitter and the messaging app, Telegram showing a hooded man, on a rooftop pointing what appears to be a rifle.

One Twitter user posted the video with the accompanying message: “Rioter in France takes up sniper position with stolen police rifle.” Another account claims the rifle was stolen from a police van.

An image of a snipper on a roof from a videao with a label "old image"

A Telegram user displayed the fire emoji next to the French flag and stated: “looters covered by a sniper.”

The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times across different platforms and accounts, and retweeted thousands of times.

But the video was not filmed during the current disturbances, it is old footage.

By searching for previous instances of the video on social media, BBC Verify can confirm it was posted on Twitter on 13 March, 2022.

The man’s clothing, position on the rooftop and visible buildings are identical in both tweets.

The video was likely filmed on the roof of a residential tower block in an eastern suburb of Paris, but it wasn’t possible to confirm whether the rifle was real or a replica gun.

One Twitter user, aware of the earlier instances of this video, commented that the alleged sniper must have “been there over a year now.”

Video of large crowd is from Mexico

A video on TikTok – showing a huge crowd of people with the caption, “Nanterre, France – Nahel,” and a series of sad emojis – has had more than nine million views.

Nanterre is the suburb of Paris where Nahel M, who was 17, was shot by police.

But the video of the crowd was actually filmed in another country.

BBC Verify ran a search for other versions of the video on TikTok, and found the exact same clip posted last month, claiming to show a concert by the Argentinian band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs in Mexico City on 3 June.

Screenshot of TikTok video

An internet search for recent live gigs in a public square in Mexico City brought up an article by music magazine Billboard about a live concert by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs in Mexico City’s main square, Zocalo on 3 June, which reportedly drew a crowd of 300,000.

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation