Editor’s note: This is a roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue headlines of the week. None of these stories is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:
CLAIM: Black-and-white photo shows Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota in a uniform undergoing military training.
THE FACTS: The photograph of a woman with an automatic weapon was taken by The Associated Press on Feb. 25, 1978, before Omar was born. According to information with the photo, it was taken at a military training campus at Halane, Somalia. The photograph circulated widely on Facebook with information that falsely identifies Omar as being pictured with a gun. “Ilhan Omar said she hates guns!!!” reads the text of one Facebook post that uses the photo. “Jihadi Omar at a Training Camp for Terrorists!” states another. Omar, a Somali-American who became the first Muslim refugee elected to U.S. Congress last year, was born on Oct. 4, 1982 — more than four years after the photograph was taken. In a tweet late Wednesday night, Omar described false online claims about the photograph as “dangerous disgusting and disturbing.” A spokesman for Omar referred the AP to the congresswoman’s tweet. The AP’s caption does not name the two people in the photo but describes the one checking her gun as a Somali army recruit. She is wearing a headdress and a uniform that features a white belt. It describes the uniformed person standing behind her as an instructor.
CLAIM: Court upholds North Dakota law stripping voting rights from Native Americans.
THE FACTS: Posts circulating on Facebook wrongly assert that Native Americans have been stripped of voting rights in North Dakota. They are still eligible to vote in the state. However, a change to North Dakota’s voter ID law has been criticized for potentially suppressing Native American votes. North Dakota law requires voters to provide an ID listing an address, but not all residents on tribal land have one. Before 2013, voters who did not have one could sign an affidavit attesting to their eligibility. That provision was removed by state Republicans after Democrat Heidi Heitkamp narrowly claimed a U.S. Senate seat in 2012 with the help of votes cast by Native Americans, who make up 5% of the state’s population. The rule change faces legal challenges because many living on reservations use post office boxes, not street addresses. Last October, weeks before the midterm elections, the U.S. Supreme Court responded to an emergency appeal from the tribes by upholding the state’s voter ID rules. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld state voter ID laws earlier this month in a ruling, spurring the inaccurate statements on social media. Federally recognized tribes can assign tribal members addresses. The North Dakota Secretary of State also told voters in the largely rural state that they can establish or identify an address for their home by contacting the county’s 911 coordinator. The AP reported last year that at least dozens of Native Americans were unable to cast ballots because of the new rules but turnout was up in two counties with Native American reservations.
THE FACTS: The false post circulated widely on Instagram early this week and was shared by several high-profile figures. “Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from today even messages that have been deleted...,” the post falsely claimed. “If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tacitly allowing the use of your photos.” On Tuesday, Adam Mosseri, who heads Instagram, countered the claim, posting: “Heads up! If you’re seeing a meme claiming Instagram is changing its rules tomorrow. It’s not true.” Actors Rob Lowe and Debra Messing, as well as Energy Secretary Rick Perry, were among those who shared the post. In a now-deleted post, Perry, who oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal, had written, “Feel free to repost!! #nothanksinstagram.” Versions of the hoax can be found on Facebook dating to at least 2012, when a post with similar phrasing surfaced. “There’s no truth to this post,” Stephanie Otway, a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told the AP in an email Wednesday. Instagram says in its data policy that it does collect some information from its users. “We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our Products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content, and message or communicate with others,” its policy states.