The June 2023 killing in France of a teenager of Algerian descent by a policeman sparked days of protests and riots in several French cities. In this context, Greek social network users shared a video of thousands of people packed into a city area with audio of loud chants in Arabic. The video is presented as a gathering in response to the shooting. However, this is false. The video shows a free concert by a popular band in central Mexico City. A soundtrack of Islamic chants was added over the images.
It also led to a rash of online media posts falsely claiming to show images linked to the unrest. AFP has written about several of these attempts to spread disinformation, including posts showing a video of a sniper that has been online since 2022 and an old photo of a bombed-out building in Kyiv.
In this example, a Facebook post shows a video of a massive crowd that appears to be chanting in Arabic. “May Allah help you brothers and sisters,” says the text in the post. It adds #nantes-france# and the date July 1, 2023, suggesting it was showing an event in the French city of Nantes — about 370 kilometres from Nanterre, where Nanel M. was from — just days after the shooting. It was shared at least 800 times since it was posted on July 1, 2023.
The video does not, however, have anything to do with the demonstrations in France. It shows a crowd gathered for a free music concert in Mexico City in early June, 2023. The sound of the Muslim profession of faith was added to the original video.
We have seen similar posts in other languages, including Spanish, English, Catalan, Arabic, Turkish and Italian. Many do not mention Nantes, but Nanterre, where the shooting took place. Most do not have the Arabic audio that we hear on the Greek posts.
A music concert in Mexico
As reported by AFP’s team in Mexico, a reverse video search revealed that this video has been on TikTok since June 4, 2023, for example here and here. The videos have hashtags such as #losfabulososcadilacs and #concierto.
It is the same video being shared as linked to the events in France but in better quality and without the added sound of the Muslim call. Similarities can be seen in the screenshot comparison below.
The video being shared with the false context has been slightly cropped from the original, but the details (circled in red in both images) are the same.
The TikTok publications and hashtags enabled us to trace the video to a free concert by Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs on June 3, 2023 in the main square of Mexico City, which is called Zócalo.
Media reports cited officials as saying the event attracted a record 300,000 people. It was covered by several media outlets in Spanish, with some reports showing the massive crowd also pictured here and here.
A Google Street View search of the area around Zócalo found that the video was recorded from the top of the Edificio de Gobierno (government building) on the Avenida 20 de Noviembre, which leads to the square.
The audio was added to the original
The original videos do not have the audio of a crowd chanting in Arabic that we hear in the posts shared in Greek. Our Arabic-speaking colleagues told us that the chants were the Islamic profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.” This is common in Middle East and Islamic countries, even in non-religious contexts.
We tried to find where this particular version of the Muslim call came from by conducting online audio searches but were not able to trace this audio.