(AP) — The following is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online and work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
This brief roundup offers some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media.
NOT REAL: Regular gas costs $9.40 a gallon in Death Valley, California.
THE FACTS: California gas prices are the highest in the country right now, but they aren’t that high. A photo shared on social media that shows a Chevron gas station sign with regular unleaded gasoline priced at $9.40 per gallon is manipulated.
G. Dan Mitchell, a California photographer, told The Associated Press in an email that he took the photo several years ago and altered it as an April Fools’ Day prank. As gas prices climbed in the state this month, social media users resurfaced the image and paired it with claims that tied higher gas prices to a 12-cent gas tax increase that was implemented in November 2017.
Mitchell told the AP that regular gas was around $4 a gallon in 2011, when he captured the image at a Death Valley gas station. He manipulated the photo to show a price of $9.40 a gallon and posted it to his professional photography website eight years ago on April 1. Mitchell said the gas station he photographed is “notorious for having some of the priciest gas in California.” Mitchell said. He said he did not approve republication of the image on social media.
Oil refinery issues in the state have caused gas prices to spike recently, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, which tracks fuel pricing. As of Friday morning, the highest price in recent days was $5.25 per gallon, DeHaan said.
NOT REAL: Circulating video is the official trailer for the movie sequel “Beetlejuice II.”
THE FACTS: Warner Bros. did not release a trailer for a sequel to director Tim Burton’s 1988 cult classic, “Beetlejuice,” which featured Michael Keaton.
Candice McDonough, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros., told The Associated Press in an email that the company has not released a film trailer for a “Beetlejuice” sequel, and has no “Beetlejuice II” project in active development.
A short video circulating online pieces together clips featuring actors from the original film, including Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. The trailer has been circulating for at least a year. The movie is about a couple who die in a car accident and haunt their old home. The film has been adapted for the stage. “Beetlejuice: The Musical,” had its official opening this month on Broadway.
NOT REAL: The man accused of throwing a boy over a balcony at the Mall of America was born with a Muslim name but later changed it to Emmanuel Aranda.
THE FACTS: The man charged in the case was born Emmanuel Aranda, according to Cook County birth records. Social media posts attempt to portray Aranda as Muslim by falsely claiming he was born Abdisaid Mohamed.
Prosecutors have charged Aranda with attempted first-degree murder after he was arrested April 12 for throwing a 5-year-old boy from a balcony at the Mall of America, a Minneapolis-area tourist attraction.
False Facebook posts say he is a Somali immigrant or legally changed his name to Aranda, but birth records show he was born in August 1994 at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. No name changes have been made to the record, James Scalzitti, the director of communications at the Cook County Clerk’s Office, told the AP in an email.
Records also show Aranda was issued a Social Security card in his birth name. Bloomington Police, who investigated the mall case, have no information to indicate Aranda has used another name, said Deputy Police Chief Mike Hartley.
“We don’t have an alias for him and certainly not that one,” Hartley told the AP.
Aranda’s religious affiliation has not been disclosed. The boy who was thrown from the balcony is recovering in a Minnesota hospital.
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