A BIZARRE piece of Chinese fake news claims that Italian President Sergio Mattarella was arrested in Italy by US Special Forces.
According to the AFP Fact-Checking service, the Mandarin-language post began circulating on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit in January 2021.
It claims that “the Italian pro-communist President Sergio Mattarella was arrested by US special forces in Italy”, adding “this raises the question, can the United States arrest the president of another country directly?”
The post is completely false – the photograph accompanying the bizarre claim shows a middle-aged man surrounded by troops, which the post claims is Mattarella being arrested. It actually shows US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, with his security detail during a visit by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Delhi.
Although Juster bears a slight resemblance to the Italian statesman when he wears a facemask, it is clear with a small amount of research that the post’s claim is completely ludicrous. It is unclear who or what is responsible for producing and spreading the misinformation, but it is very possible the authors of the post could be backed by state actors interested in discrediting the US.
Such tactics of online misinformation have been weaponised by the governments of many countries with the intention of controlling or distorting global news narratives. As fact-checking services improve, so do the tactics used by fake news authors. The issue of online misinformation has become a widely discussed topic during the pandemic and is certain to remain a major issue in the future.
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