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Taking a look at what didn’t happen this week

Airport employees wear face masks in Terminal 5 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting that chlorine dioxide will help get rid of the new virus from China. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that drinking products containing the chemical can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and symptoms of severe dehydration.

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:


Chlorine dioxide will help get rid of the new virus from China.

The facts

As news spread about the new coronavirus outbreak, social media accounts began promoting the idea that drinking chlorine dioxide or using related products with names like Miracle Mineral Solution would help wipe out the virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against ingesting the bleaching agent.

“We understand people are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus and we urge people to talk to their health care provider about treatment options, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness,” the FDA said in a statement to the AP.

Social media users began circulating the false claim on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube shortly after the first case of the virus was reported in the U.S. By Friday, the virus had infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, with more than 200 deaths in China.

Chlorine dioxide has been falsely touted by fringe groups online as a “miracle” cure for autism. The FDA has been warning against drinking chlorine dioxide since 2010 after the agency received several reports of consumers drinking products containing the chemical. The agency warns it can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and symptoms of severe dehydration.


FEMA proposes “martial law to contain coronavirus”

The facts

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed that there are no plans to enact martial law in the U.S. In recent days, a false story circulated on social media claiming that FEMA was proposing martial law to contain the respiratory illness spreading around the world.

Martial law would transfer power to the military.

“This article is not true,” FEMA said in an email sent Tuesday to the AP, adding that it has not advocated for martial law.

The false claims about martial law have circulated on Facebook since Jan. 23. “Acting FEMA Director Pete Gaynor on Wednesday offered President Trump a startling solution, martial law in the United States, to prevent the spread of a lethal Chinese coronavirus that infected hundreds and killed at least 17 people in the Communist nation,” the post said. False posts also circulated on Twitter. “Those who are ‘awake’ and aware completely understand the dormant plans for martial law and widespread FEMA detention camps in America,” a Twitter user falsely claimed.


Image shows the first building of Huoshenshan Hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan constructed in just 16 hours and completed Monday.

The facts

Chinese state media shared an image Monday that circulated widely on Twitter, implying that it showed a hospital constructed in just 16 hours to deal with thousands of new patients who have contracted the new virus from China.

The photo, which shows a building with large windows in front with a white staircase at the side, is a stock image of a prefabricated office sold from China. The image is used regularly on sites of businesses that sell prefabricated homes, offices or hotel space.

The AP obtained photos of crews working to build Huoshenshan Hospital on Tuesday.


Video captured fatal crash of helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant.

The facts

The video shows a crash in the United Arab Emirates in December 2018.

On Jan. 26, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. Shortly after the crash, video showing a helicopter going into a tailspin and then crashing into a canyon began circulating on social media, described as showing the crash of Bryant’s helicopter.

One tweet circulating the video with the comment, “R.I.P @kobebryant died videos,” had nearly 3 million views by Monday afternoon. The video actually shows the Dec. 29, 2018, crash of a rescue helicopter in Ras al-Khaimah, in the northeastern region of the United Arab Emirates. All four crew members died in the crash. According to AP reporting, the Augusta 139 helicopter crashed near the world’s longest zipline at UAE’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais, in Ras al-Khaimah. A number of media outlets and social media accounts published video at the time of the 2018 helicopter crash, capturing it from various angles.

This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.