False Social Media Coverage of Protests Provoking ‘The Racial Flame’

DC Riots

As in many instances, the internet has created a breeding ground making it almost impossible to distinguish fact from fiction in the protests turned riots happening around the country. As always, one can use their freedom of internet privileges for good or for evil. The Associated Press provides known examples of “false social media posts” and “fake videos and photos.”

Since the video of George Floyd’s death surfaced, “internet troublemakers and even celebrities have posted misleading or unsubstantiated claims around his death and the ensuing protests” reported the Associated Press. Furthermore, “the social media inaccuracies have created confusion around the unfolding news, tearing at the already loosely woven seams of America’s racial tapestry.”

A Communications professor at Ohio State University, Lanier Holt, told the AP “a good deal of this, if not all of this, is intentionally trying to stoke the racial flame that has been ablaze in the United States almost since slavery started 400-plus years ago.” A photo of a man “laughing alongside president Trump” at a rally wrongfully states as the caption: “The cop who killed George Floyd.” It was not Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in the photo.

Professor Holt explains how these actions prey on racial tensions. “They put out that false information to get that narrative in the minds of people who already have these…pre-existing biases,” he said. For example, one of the sham viral photos reported by the Associated Press “juxtaposed a screenshot of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck with a photo of a man holding a blackberry between his thumb and index finger and wearing a red baseball cap that said ‘Make Whites Great Again”  officer Chauvin wearing a “Make America White Again.”

Postings of the photo suggested it was Chauvin in both photos and wearing the hat. Even “prominent figures” including rapper Ice Cube shared the false pic. In fact, the man in the photo was Jonathan Lee Riches, a man known for being an internet troll.

Amongst many other attempts to show Chauvin as a Trump supporter, “a second set of viral posts” included “photos of a man smiling onstage at a Donald Trump rally in Minneapolis last October. The posts falsely claimed the photos, which showed a man wearing a ‘Cops for Trump’ shirt and holding up a ‘Vote Trump’ sign, were of Chauvin” reported the Associated Press.

Minneapolis police union president Lt. Bob Kroll set the record straight, saying the man in photos is “Make Gallagher, the president of the police union in Bloomington, Minnesota.” Kroll told the AP, “Can you put a stop to the false narrative, please? None of the officers in the incident were near the Trump rally.”